Notch pathway could aid treatment of osteoporosis, fractures and arthritis

September 05, 2015

The work is part of ongoing research around the world aimed at harnessing the promise of stem cells for human health. Unfortunately, stem cell therapy has been slow to actually make a difference in the lives of patients with problems of the bones and cartilage, Hilton notes, largely because so many questions are currently unanswered.

"To really make stem-cell medicine work, we need to understand where the stem cells have come from and how to get them to become the cell you want, when and where you want it. We are definitely in the infancy of learning how to manipulate stem cells and use them in treatment," said Hilton, assistant professor of Orthopaedics and Rehabilitation.

"This research helps set the foundation for ultimately trying new therapies in patients," he added. "For instance, let's say a patient has a fracture that simply won't heal. The patient comes in and has a sample of bone marrow drawn. Their skeletal stem cells are isolated and expanded in the laboratory via controlled Notch activation, then put back into the patient to create new bone in numbers great enough to heal the fracture. That's the hope."

Work in Hilton's laboratory was initially funded through start-up funds from the medical center. The early findings have helped him attract two grants from the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, part of the National Institutes of Health, and the University has filed a patent on the Notch technology.

Source: University of Rochester Medical Center