The average person has two broken bones in their lifetime, which can be caused by everything from arthritis, osteoporosis, accidents and side effects of medications. So it’s no surprise that trying to heal broken bones is as old as medicine itself.
But while repairing bones with casts or synthetic or autologous bone grafts (bone harvested from another part of the patient’s body) is common, these can be inadequate solutions.
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That is where Israeli biotech company Bonus BioGroup comes in, with a revolutionary procedure that can grow new bone from a person’s fat.
The company has just received approval to transplant in vitro-developed bone implant into humans and will perform the first bone transplant in the coming week.
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“Cutting bone from one part of the body and putting it in another part is a painful and costly procedure,” Shai Meretzki, CEO of Bonus Biogroup, which was founded in 2008, tells NoCamels. In addition, he says, it is sometimes impossible to graft the amount of bone needed. “So we thought, ‘why don’t we grow new bone by using cells from patients?’”
This pioneering technology grows and regenerates 3D high-density bone graft from fat cells. Growing bone graft from a person’s own DNA, Meretzki explains, also “avoids any possible bone rejection from the body since it is accepted by the immune system right away.”
Making it fit
To construct the new bone, Bonus BioGroup receives samples of the patient’s fat tissue, extracted through liposuction, along with a CT scan of the damaged bone. The team then constructs a scaffold made of biodegradable sponge-like material, where a live bone can grow, a procedure that takes about a month.
Using three dimensional scans of the damaged bone to build the gel-like scaffold means the team can create bone that matches the exact shape needed.Once the bone is created, the scaffold decomposes naturally and what remains is the live bone, which is then sent back to the hospital for the patient to undergo the transplant.
Grows like any other part of the body
“This is a better solution for the body than plastic or metal pieces,” Meretzki claims. These bones are “active live bones that can grow; remodel and change as your body does.” Even with young children, when the bone graft is surgically inserted, the new addition adjusts and grows like any other part of the body.
Located in Haifa, Israel, Bonus BioGroup’s facility contains a team of thirty highly trained biologists, chemists, and engineers. They work in sterile laboratories in order to grow, control and analyze each individual bone.
Next step: Growing cartilage for joint healing
Meretzki previously founded Pluristem Therapeutics, a biotech company focused on cell therapy and after developing the ability to grow a 3D culture of cells, he decided to launch Bonus Biogroup to deal specifically with cell tissue and organs. This field, Meretzki recalls, was “really in need of a development for new active tissue growth.”
“Currently,” Meretzki tells NoCamels, “we are growing bone and cartilage but we’re working on a system that combines the property of both bone and cartilage.” Hoping to break into the field of healing joints, which is more complex has it includes cartilage. “It’s an extremely desperate and vast market with a limited solution,” says Meretzki.
Bonus BioGroup is funded by private investors. The company is planning to open an additional production facility in the United States in the next 18-24 months.