Bone marrow derived mesenchymal progenitor cells, endometrial mesenchymal stem/stromal cells (MSC) and amnion epithelial cells represent three stem cell types that are easily accessible and do not have the limitations and ethical concerns associated with embryonic stem cells, iPS cells and their derivatives.
The advent of tissue engineering in the last few decades, together with stem cell developments, has given researchers the potential ability to suitably engineer cellular constructs for replacement of damaged tissues. Scientists in The Ritchie Centre are investigating the potential application of stem cells, when combined with novel biomatrices, in models of spinal disc injury and osteochondral defects such as osteoarthritis and pelvic organ prolapse. They have demonstrated that allogeneic mesenchymal precursor cells (MPCs), obtained from adult bone marrow, are capable of differentiating into osteocytes and chondrocytes in biocompatible matrices as well as initiating repair and regeneration of damaged tissues. They have shown, for the first time, that anterior cervical implantation of allogeneic MPCs, in a matrix contained in a cervical interbody spacer, effectively facilitate new bone formation following discectomy. This led to a recently completed medical trial at the Monash Medical Centre.
The capacity for chondrogenic differentiation of stem cells is now being studied in this application in an attempt to produce appropriate bio-scaffolds to replace damage or degenerated osteochondral joints and spinal discs to provide a fibrous or cartilaginous joint.
Endometrial MSC, extracted from endometrial biopsy tissue using a novel marker, produces stromal connective tissue when transplanted into an animal model. Endometrial MSC can also be grown on novel scaffold materials being produced by our collaborators at CSIRO, which are currently being tested for their potential use in treating pelvic organ prolapse.