Stem Cells Become Bone and Cartilage with Clay Specks

From futurity.org

Clay specks turn stem cells into bone and cartilage

A new class of clay nanoparticles can direct stem cells to become bone or cartilage cells, report researchers.

Human stem cells have shown potential in medicine as they can transform into various specialized cell types such as bone and cartilage cells.

The current approach to obtain such specialized cells is involves subjecting stem cells to specialized instructive protein molecules known as growth factors. However, use of growth factors in the human body can generate harmful effects including unwanted tissue growth, such as a tumor.

Akhilesh Gaharwar, assistant professor in the biomedical engineering department at Texas A&M University, and his students have demonstrated that a specific type of two-dimensional  nanoparticles, also known as nanosilicates, can grow bone and cartilage tissue from stem cells in the absence of growth factors. These nanoparticles are similar to flaxseed in shape, but 10 billion times smaller.

Two-dimensional nanomaterials have gained increasing popularity over a variety of fields, such as energy, optics, and regenerative engineering, due to their extremely small size and unique shape. These nanoparticles consist of highly organized atomic layers made from minerals. The minerals are abundantly present within the human body and help in some vital functions.

“To understand how these nanoparticles interact with stem cells, we utilized a next-generation sequencing technique called RNA-seq,” says Irtisha Singh, a computational biologist from Weill Cornell Medicine at Cornell University and corresponding author of the paper. “RNA-seq takes a snapshot of gene activity of the cell at any given moment. This is similar to taking a high-resolution photo during the Super Bowl and identifying the reaction of every fan during the touchdown.”

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