MedStar Union Memorial Ortho-Biologic Lab Research Wins International Award

Novel Stem Cell Injections into Blood Stream May Help Heal Bones Better

February 23, 2018

Zijun Zhang, MD, PhD

BALTIMORE, Md.—(February 23, 2018)—New research from MedStar Union Memorial Hospital that found injecting stem cells into the bloodstream may help bone grafts heal better with fewer fractures and infection, earned first place recognition in the 13th World Stem Cell Summit (WSCS) in Miami, Jan. 26th, where 1500 attendees from 35 countries represented the science of regenerative medicine.

MedStar Union Memorial’s investigative team, led by Zijun Zhang, MD, PhD, the director of the Orthobiologic Laboratory in the Department of Orthopedics and Sports Medicine, and Lew Schon, MD, chief of Foot and Ankle Services, discovered that injecting stem cells intravenously into mice that had received bone grafts, led to nearly twice as much formation of callus, the healing tissue that forms around the ends of broken bone.

“I’m very encouraged,” Zhang said. “The big advantage of this approach is that it’s not very invasive and the cells can be given multiple times.”

Dr. Zhang’s team used a bone allograft, or bone from living or deceased donor. Bone allograft is used in more than 1 million cases annually in the United States and Europe and is especially useful when a large portion of bone is needed.

Lew Schon, MD

Most allograft comes from cadavers. The bone undergoes a vigorous wash and sterilization before being stored in a deep freeze of -80 Celsius, to destroy all living cells. The allograft then is effectively dead, a consequence that increases the risk of the bone not bonding to the patient’s bone, fractures, infections and poor healing.

The treatment with the stem cells helps regenerate new bone on top of the donor bone, Dr. Zhang said.

Stem cells are often spread on the bone allograft before it’s transplanted into the body, but the researchers wanted to explore whether continuing to introduce stem cells into the body as it healed slowly over weeks or months would be more effective.

The researchers first gave the mice femur bone allografts. The allografts were coated with three different substances, alone or in combination with each other, to draw the stem cells to the new bone.

The researchers then gave the mice mesenchymal stem cells, which are adult stem cells found in bone marrow, intravenously at weeks one, two and three post-surgery. They found that the most effective therapy involved the intravenous stem cells and two substances that helped attract them to the bone, stromal cell-derived factor 1 (SDF-1) and platelet-derived growth factor BB (PDGF-BB).

The research is supported by a grant from the Maryland Stem Cell Research Fund.

About MedStar Union Memorial Hospital 

MedStar Union Memorial Hospital is a not-for-profit, 223-bed acute care teaching hospital with a strong emphasis on cardiac care, orthopaedics and sports medicine. With roots stemming back to 1854, MedStar Union Memorial has provided high quality care for 160 years. As one of the region's top specialty hospitals, MedStar Union Memorial is home to: The Curtis National Hand Center, the only hand center designated by Congress as The National Center for the Treatment of Hand and Upper Extremity; MedStar Heart & Vascular Institute, a premier cardiovascular program in the mid-Atlantic, aligned with Cleveland Clinic Heart and Vascular Institute, the nation’s #1 heart program; and MedStar Union Memorial Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine, the oldest hospital based Sports Medicine Program in Maryland (founded in 1979).  In addition, MedStar Union Memorial offers a comprehensive range of inpatient and outpatient services including oncology, diabetes and endocrinology, general surgery, thoracic surgery, vascular surgery and palliative care.

MedStar Union Memorial is accredited by The Joint Commission (TJC). It is the first hospital in Baltimore to receive spine certification by TJC, and the first in the state of Maryland to receive advanced certification for palliative care. MedStar Union Memorial is also TJC-certified in hip and knee replacement, CARF-accredited in inpatient rehabilitation and Curtis Work Rehabilitation Services, and has been designated as a Primary Stroke Center and the Hand Trauma Center for Maryland.

MedStar Union Memorial is a proud member of MedStar Health, a non-profit, regional health care system with 10 hospitals and more than 20 other health-related services in the Maryland and Washington, D.C., area.

For more information, visit MedStarUnionMemorial.org.

Media Contacts

Debra Schindler
Regional Director, Media & Public Relations, MedStar Health Baltimore
410-274-1260
[email protected]

Carrie Wells
Public Relations Specialist, MedStar Health Baltimore
443-613-1569
[email protected]