Bone marrow contains a population of rare progenitor cells capable of differentiating into bone, cartilage, muscle, tendon, and other connective tissues. These cells, referred to as MSCs, can be purified and culture expanded from animals and humans. This review summarizes recent experimentation focused on characterizing the cellular aspects of osteogenic differentiation, and exploration of the potential for using autologous stem cell therapy to augment bone repair and regeneration. The authors have completed an array of preclinical studies showing the feasibility and efficacy of MSC based implants to heal large osseous defects. After confirming that syngeneic rat MSCs could heal a critical size segmental defect in the femur, it was established that human MSCs form bone of considerable mechanical integrity when implanted in an osseous defect in an immunocompromised animal. Furthermore, bone repair studies in do gs verify that the technology is transferable to large animals, and that the application of this technology to patients at geographically remote sites is feasible. These studies suggest that by combining MSCs with an appropriate delivery vehicle, it may be possible to offer patients new therapeutic options.

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