Stem Cells Could Be Directed To Increase Bone Formation

Updated: August 31, 2018

A bone growth molecule has now been developed by the scientific community which once injected into the bloodstream, ‘directs’ stem cells in the bone marrow to form more bones. The UC Davis Health System scientists have created this novel technique.

The bone growth molecule which is injected is a hybrid molecule (or a double-stranded nucleic acid molecule which is made by man from two different single-stranded nucleic acid molecules of different sources). This hybrid molecule was ‘created’ by Kit Lam, professor and chair of the UC Davis Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Medicine. (1)

Though the experiments conducted by the researchers were on mouse model, they hold promise as an osteoporosis treatment for human beings especially in cases where bone density and strength are compromised with aging, estrogen deficiency and long-term use of steroid for treatment of chronic conditions.

During the study, it was observed that once LLP2A-alendronate entered the bloodstream it attached itself to the mesenchymal stem cells present in the bone marrow and ‘directed’ those cells to travel to the surface of the bone. Once on the bone surface, the mesenchymal stem cells performed functions of bone formation and repair. In addition, the mesenchymal stem cells also manufactured proteins that aided the process of bone growth. Thus, the mesenchymal stem cells were being ‘exploited’ to remodel the bone through repair and strengthening (thickening).

According to the lead author of the study and the chief investigator, Wei Yao, “There are many stem cells, even in elderly people, but they do not readily migrate to bone. Finding a molecule that attaches to stem cells and guides them to the targets we need is a real breakthrough.” (2)

What made the findings even more striking were that beneficial effects of the therapy could be seen as early as twelve weeks after the injection of the hybrid molecule into aging and menopausal mice. The difference in bone mass at the thigh and spine were measurable and there was overall increase in bone strength when compared to the group of mice which was not injected with the hybrid molecule.

Clearly this research holds a huge promise in the treatment of bone rehabilitation beyond osteoporosis such as in healing of bone injuries, in treatment of peripheral artery disease as well as those of macular degeneration to blood disorders, skin wounds and diseased organs. Getting the stem cells to bind exactly at the site where therapy is required has always been a near-impossible goal but this study has made this type of stem cell therapy a reality.

According to Jan Nolta, professor of internal medicine, an author of the study and director of the UC Davis Institute for Regenerative Cures, “These results are very promising for translating into human therapy. We have shown this potential therapy is effective in rodents, and our goal now is to move it into clinical trials.” (2)


  1. Researchers Develop Method of Directing Stem Cells to Increase Bone Formation and Bone Strength; Science Daily News; February 2012;
  2. UC Davis Investigators Develop Method of Directing Stem Cells to Increase Bone Formation and Bone Strength; UC Davis Health System – News; February 2012;

*Technical report of the study may be had at:

  1. Directing mesenchymal stem cells to bone to augment bone formation and increase bone mass; Nature Medicine (Journal); February 2012;

Article Comments

Add New Comment

Your email address will not be published.

  1. Donna Williams

    March 27, 2012 , 6:49 pm

    My Orthopedic doctor recently said he wished he could give me a stem cell injection for the osteoarthritis in my knee. How long will it take for this new technology be a reality for treatment? I saw a clinic in Oceanside online that is already doing it with success.

  2. amira zamiri

    March 28, 2012 , 3:49 pm

    I wonder wether this lady is refering to prp injection or another method …please let me know because i suffer from Joint pain in my knees …but the prp injection did not help me

  3. Donna Williams

    March 28, 2012 , 5:58 pm

    Sorry it did not work for you.
    Orrin D., a 68 year old man with severe arthritis in his left knee. He was diagnosed with near “bone on bone” osteoarthritis causing much pain and discomfort. The orthopedist told him that the only thing they could do for him is surgery and recommended a Total Knee Replacement. Orrin decided to try platelet rich plasma therapy (PRP) to avoid the surgery. After three treatments, Orrin is now able to walk every morning for 3 miles without pain and sleep soundly without tossing and turning from pain.
    Platelet rich plasma-(PRP) is a method of harvesting specialized adult stem cells and growth factor molecules from a small amount of blood and precisely injecting them into the damaged tissue. Our doctors utilize Musculoskeletal Ultrasound Technology to guide the injection to targeted area. This process is followed by specialized electro-therapy and several other modalities depending on the joint and tissue damage. Depending on the severity of the condition and the size of the joint, most people need a series of 1 to 4 treatments to show improvement. The whole process takes about one hour and people can go back to their usual activities immediately. Our protocol insures precise accuracy by the use of musculoskeletal diagnostic ultrasound that enables our doctors to actually see the damaged tissue in real time while doing the procedure.
    PRP has only recently been developed for use outside of hospitals and requires specialized equipment and training. This procedure has shown excellent results for pain due to arthritic SI joints, knees, ankles, shoulders, elbows, wrists and hands and hips. In fact, this is the only known therapy to show documented evidence of increased cartilage growth in joints.
    Since the procedure uses stem cells and growth factors from your own blood, there are no toxicities to the tissues or your body. We are excited to bring this revolutionary treatment to san diego county in order to help people regain their function without pain.
    Health link medical center specializes in non-surgical treatments for Neuro-Musculoskeletall pain and injuries.
    We accept medicare, tricare and most PPO insurance plan.
    Call now to schedule your consultation.
    Free consultation for those who qualify.
    Phone: (760) 721-4000
    Address: 2125 S El Camino Real, Suite 210
    City: Oceanside
    State: CA
    Zip: 92054

This article features advice from our industry experts to give you the best possible info through cutting-edge research.

Lara Pizzorno
MDiv, MA, LMT - Best-selling author of Healthy Bones Healthy You! and Your Bones; Editor of Longevity Medicine Review, and Senior Medical Editor for Integrative Medicine Advisors.,
Dr. Liz Lipski
PhD, CNS, FACN, IFMP, BCHN, LDN - Professor and Director of Academic Development, Nutrition programs in Clinical Nutrition at Maryland University of Integrative Health.,
Dr. Loren Fishman
MD, B.Phil.,(oxon.) - Medical Director of Manhattan Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation and Founder of the Yoga Injury Prevention Website.,
Prof. Didier Hans
PHD, MBA - Head of Research & Development Center of Bone Diseases, Lausanne University Hospital CHUV, Switzerland,