We are living longer with an increase in human lifespan of 2.5 years per decade. Scientists are now focused on achieving healthspans, where we live disease free, which can match our longer lives.
This piece for Drivetime on RTE Radio 1, broadcast on 21st June, features interviews with three leading scientists working on different ways to solve the ageing ‘problem’; Luke O’Neill, TCD, Fergal O’Brien, RCSI, and Emma Teeling UCD.
Stem cells, the body’s most flexible cells, have been ‘tricked’ into producing bone cells by a team of researchers based at the Royal College of Surgeons in Dublin, led by Professor Fergal O’Brien.
The significance of this work is that it provides a way for scientists to generate new bone tissue where it has been damaged, or destroyed by disease, and avoid the need for surgical bone grafts.
Surgical bone grafts, either from another part of the person’s body, or from a donor, carry the risk of infection, and also, there is no guarantee that the grafted bone will not properly ‘take’ at the site where it’s required.
Surgery causes stress on the body, and, where possible, medics try to avoid it.
The use of stem cells to produce bone could provide the means for producing exactly the right amount of bone, at the location where it is required.
The article below was published in The Sunday Times 22.07.2012