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Scientists discover new method for tissue regeneration inspired by nature

Scientists have found a way of mimicking our body’s natural healing process, using cell derived nano-sized particles called vesicles, to repair damaged tissue.

In a new paper, published in Scientific Reports, the research team describes a new approach to bone regeneration; stimulating cells to produce vesicles which can then be delivered to facilitate tissue regeneration.

The team, led by Loughborough University and the University of Birmingham, believe that the findings mark the first step in a new direction for tissue regeneration with the potential to help repair bone, teeth and cartilage.

Fracture numbers are expected to double by 2020, putting tremendous strain on healthcare-systems worldwide. Osteoporosis-fragility fractures alone represent a cost of £1.5 billion to the NHS, and for individuals it can have a detrimental impact on quality of life.

Current approaches have significant limitations; autologous grafts cannot meet demand and cause patient morbidity, allogeneic bone lacks bioactive factors, and growth factor-based approaches (e.g. BMP-2) may have serious side-effects and high costs.

Consequently, there is a considerable need to devise new methods for the generation of large volumes of bone without associated patient morbidity.

In recent years, attention has been focused on cell-based approaches. However, translation is frequently prevented by insurmountable regulatory, ethical and economic issues.

This novel solution delivers all the advantages of cell-based therapies but without using viable cells, by harnessing the regenerative capacity of nano-sized particles called extracellular vesicles that are naturally generated during bone formation.

Excitingly, the team have shown in-vitro that if extracellular vesicles are applied in combination with a simple phosphate the therapy outperforms the current gold standard, BMP-2.

Dr Owen Davies, EPSRC E-TERM Landscape Fellow at Loughborough University’s School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences, said: “It is early days, but the potential is there for this to transform the way we approach tissue repair. We’re now looking to produce these therapeutically valuable particles at scale and also examine their capacity to regenerate other tissues.”

Dr Sophie Cox, from the School of Chemical Engineering at the University of Birmingham, added: “Though we can never fully mimic the complexity of vesicles produced by cells in nature, this work describes a new pathway harnessing natural developmental processes to facilitate hard tissue repair.”

Notes for editors

Press release reference number: PR 17/146

Loughborough University is equipped with a live in-house broadcast unit via the Globelynx network. To arrange an interview with one of our experts please contact the press office on 01509 223491. Bookings can be made online via www.globelynx.com

Loughborough is one of the country’s leading universities, with an international reputation for research that matters, excellence in teaching, strong links with industry, and unrivalled achievement in sport and its underpinning academic disciplines.

It has been awarded five stars in the independent QS Stars university rating scheme, named the best university in the world to study sports-related subjects in the 2017 QS World University Rankings and top in the country for its student experience in the 2016 THE Student Experience Survey.

Loughborough is in the top 10 of every national league table, being ranked 6th in the Guardian University League Table 2018, 7th in the Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2018 and 10th in The UK Complete University Guide 2018. It was also named Sports University of the Year by The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2017.

Loughborough is consistently ranked in the top twenty of UK universities in the Times Higher Education’s ‘table of tables’ and is in the top 10 in England for research intensity. In recognition of its contribution to the sector, Loughborough has been awarded seven Queen's Anniversary Prizes.

The Loughborough University London campus is based on the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and offers postgraduate and executive-level education, as well as research and enterprise opportunities. It is home to influential thought leaders, pioneering researchers and creative innovators who provide students with the highest quality of teaching and the very latest in modern thinking.

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