If you’ve ever broken a bone, you know the process to recovery is slow and painful.
Now imagine neither splint nor surgery were enough to seal the fracture. Instead, your doctor says you need a bone graft, a procedure that involves taking bone from elsewhere to fill the gap created by your injury.
You have a choice: Allow a surgeon to cut bone from another place in your body or get some new bone from a dead person. Both are risky: Bone from another body can carry disease, so doctors have to be careful about screening donors. Grafts from your own body can still be rejected and cause a painful infection or in more serious cases lead to nerve damage.
Nina Tandon wants to do away with both of these options. Instead, she wants to help you grow your own bone. From your own cells. In the exact shape and size you need.
Her company, called EpiBone, is close to making this reality. Using stem cells and a special type of incubator, she and her team have grown durable, living bones.
But the road ahead will be challenging. So far, only a few trials of bones grown in a lab have been tested in people, and few comprehensive studies of their longterm effects have been done. The field of regenerative medicine itself is only a little over a decade old.
Putting Things Back Together
Before she ever saw the inside of a lab, seven-year-old Tandon made a hobby out of taking apart her parents’ tube TV, learning how each piece functioned and fit together, and putting it back together again.
With EpiBone, 34-year-old Tandon has made a career out of putting things back together. But this time, instead of cathodes and wires, she uses body parts.