Stem Cells heal skulls of mice, could replace facial reconstructive surgery

Stem Cells for Skull Fractures

Ever since stem cells were drawn from human embryos and grown in laboratories, scientists have been coming up with new, unique ways to treat some of the world’s most serious conditions and injuries such as obsessive-compulsive disorder, Osteoarthritis, baldness and gruesome ACL tears. Now scientists believe newlyfound stem cells can repair damaged facial bones and skulls.

Stem cells have the ability to transform into other types of cells such as red or white blood cells, muscle or brain cells. This flexibility allows them to replace defective or missing cells or remain as they are. In a sense, stem cells act as an internal repair system for a person as long as he or she is alive.

“Reconstructive surgery to repair facial deformity is time

consuming, invasive and risky.”

Those who’ve experienced serious facial or skull injuries know how difficult it is to recover. In many cases, the only way to repair facial damage caused by serious accidents or surgery is through reconstructive surgery. However, surgery to repair facial deformity is time consuming, invasive and risky.

A group of researchers from the University of Rochester Medical Center have been looking for alternative methods to reconstructive surgery and have found that stem cells could be a ground breaking alternative treatment.

The study’s authors noted that cells in a baby’s skull are unique in that sometimes, in rare circumstances, they can fuse together “prematurely,” causing deformity and inhibiting the brain’s growth.

In their 2015 study, the team of Rochester scientists found the following: “Craniofacial bones are formed mainly through intramembranous ossification, a mechanism different from endochondral ossification required for development of the body skeleton. The skeletal structures are quite distinct between the two, thus they are likely to have their own unique stem cell populations. The calvarial sutures serve as the growth centre critical for healthy development of the craniofacial skeleton. Defects in suture morphogenesis cause its premature closure, resulting in development of craniosynostosis, a disease frequently associated with facial deformity, mental retardation and problems in vision, hearing and breathing. “

The study’s scientists were most interested in studying a gene called Axin2 and testing whether it causes craniosynostosis, which, as noted, forces a baby’s skull to prematurely fuse together. To test this theory, scientists modified the Axin2 gene in mouse embryos to give them craniosynostosis. They then looked to see how the cells reacted and whether they moved quickly to seal the skull’s fissure. The study concluded these cells did indeed work to close the gap.

The next step was to figure out whether these cells could close other gaps in the skull. To do so, they drilled a tiny hole in the developing skull of mice embryos and noticed the cells moved to heal the damaged skull.

While more testing is needed, this study indicates stem cell treatment may one day be an alternative choice to invasive facial reconstructive surgery.