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Scientists look to create artificial bone marrow treatment for leukemia

Acute leukemia cells.

Researchers at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology in Germany have reported success in creating hematopoietic stem cells, a major advancement in being able to create “artificial bone marrow” for use in treating leukemia patients.

Leukemia is actually a cancer of the blood involving the production of abnormal white blood cells which fail to protect the body from infection, and can occur in people of all ages, including very young children. According to the American Cancer Society, approximately approximately 23,720 people died of leukemia in the US in 2013, with 48, 610 new cases diagnosed during the last twelve months alone.

“So far we have been able to “recreate its spongy structure of bone marrow by making a hydrogel (like the material used to make contact lenses) around salt crystals, and then removing the crystals to leave holes for the stem cells to grow inside, reported study leader Cornelia Lee-Thedieck. “We then added proteins and cells that support stem cells before injecting it with stem cells taken from umbilical-cord blood.

Still, while this has been a major breakthrough, Lee-Theieck noted that the process needs a lot more refinement, as well as clinical testing before it can be used in humans, which could “take at least 15 more years.”

"Bone marrow is very complex, with many, many different cell types, molecules, proteins," she stated. “What's more, the stem cells that could be used to treat patients can only grow and keep their properties in an environment that closely mimics real human bone marrow.”

For more information about the disease, readers can contact the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, 1311 Mamaroneck Ave., Suite 310, White Plains, NY 10605 914 949-5213.

Readers can also obtain more details about the above research by reading Lee-Theieck’s report in the current (online) issue of the journal Biomaterials.

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