Nanokicks prompt stem cells to help form bone

High frequencies could be used to help stem cells develop into muscle, bone or cartilage


Want a stem cell to help build bone? Giving it a few “nanokicks” might help, according to research led by the University of Glasgow.

The study, published in ACS Nano, looked at human mesenchymal stem cells, which are adult stem cells that can potentially develop into more specialised cells, including those that help to make bone, cartilage or muscle. They then used high-frequency vibrations to “nanokick” the cells as they grew in the lab, which seemed to encourage the stem cells to take the bone-forming route.

The study highlights the importance of the mechanical environment of stem cells as they develop, according to Prof Danny Kelly at Trinity College Dublin. He was not involved in the study but his research looks to use adult stem cells in joint repair.

“Mesenchymal stem cells are being evaluated as part of new therapies to regenerate damaged or diseased tissues,” says Prof Kelly.

“It is becoming increasingly clear that mechanical signals play a key role in controlling the fate of such stem cells and their progenitors, and this has led to the development of a new field called mechanobiology that aims to understand how physical forces regulate cells, tissues and organs. The ‘nanokicking’ approach . . . is one example of how we can potentially leverage our knowledge about how stem cells respond to mechanical cues for therapeutic effect.”