University of Wisconsin Scientists Identify Two Proteins That May Aid Bone Growth to Restore Bone Tissue Lost to Disease or Injury

The prospect of regenerating bone lost to cancer or trauma is a step closer to the clinic as University of Wisconsin (UW)-Madison scientists have identified two proteins found in bone marrow as key regulators of the master cells responsible for making new bone. In a study published online on February 2, 2017 in the journal Stem Cell Reports, a team of UW-Madison scientists reports that the proteins govern the activity of mesenchymal stem cells -- precursor cells found in marrow that make bone and cartilage. The discovery opens the door to devising implants seeded with cells that can replace bone tissue lost to disease or injury. "These are pretty interesting molecules," explains Dr. Wan-Ju Li, a UW-Madison Professor of Orthopedics and Biomedical Engineering, of the bone marrow proteins lipocalin-2 and prolactin. "We found that they are critical in regulating the fate of mesenchymal stem cells." The open-access article is titled “Identification of Bone Marrow-Derived Soluble Factors Regulating Human Mesenchymal Stem Cells for Bone Regeneration.” Dr. Li and Dr. Tsung-Lin Tsai, a UW-Madison postdoctoral researcher, scoured donated human bone marrow using high-throughput protein arrays to identify proteins of interest and then determined the activity of mesenchymal stem cells exposed to the proteins in culture. A goal of the study, says Dr. Li, is to better understand the bone marrow niche where mesenchymal stem cells reside in the body so that researchers can improve culture conditions for growing the cells in the lab and for therapy. The Wisconsin researchers found that exposing mesenchymal stem cells to a combination of lipocalin-2 and prolactin in culture reduces and slows senescence, the natural process that robs cells of their power to divide and grow. Dr.
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