Award for pioneering stem cell research to mend broken bones

25 May 2009 01:00:00.000

PA 142/09

The University of Nottingham has been awarded £1.12m to play its part in pioneering research which could lead to the development of new and better treatments for broken bones and other orthopaedic problems associated with ageing.

The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) has awarded nearly £4m to scientists from Keele University, Imperial College London, The University of Nottingham and the University of Southampton. They will  work together combining stem cell science and tissue engineering to look at the development and repair of human skeletal tissue.

Fractures, bone loss due to trauma or disease and other orthopaedic conditions pose a significant clinical and socioeconomic problem, especially with an aging population, but as yet there is no large scale effective treatment for replacing or repairing damaged bones.

Click here for full story

Scientists in the Centre for Biomolecular Sciences at The University of Nottingham are developing new materials which harness the ability of the body’s own stem cells to make new bone grow faster and stronger. Their research has already helped to produce polymer materials that fill the space left by trauma – such as a break or the removal of a tumour. These materials temporarily support the wound and provide a surface for the body’s own stem cells to migrate to encouraging new blood vessels and bone tissue to grow.


Kevin Shakesheff, Professor of Advanced Drug Delivery and Tissue Engineering in the School of Pharmacy, said: “The first generation of products, from previous research, could be used in patients by 2010. The new BBSRC funding will help us develop more advanced products to repair large scale injuries and trauma and find ways of dealing with the challenges of inherent problems in patients who cannot spontaneously form bone — such as patients have undergone radiotherapy which has inactivated local stem cell populations.”


Professor Richard Oreffo, from the University of Southampton who is leading the study, said: "Despite intense research, significant challenges for the reconstruction of tissues such as bone remain. Bone and cartilage tissue repair is a highly complex development process. A key requirement for these regeneration strategies to succeed remains our ability to understand skeletal cell activity, develop appropriate scaffolds and to understand how the environment the cells find themselves in affects their ability to interact with other cells to form new bone or cartilage."


Over the next five years, the scientists will combine their expertise in skeletal stem cells, scaffolds and materials chemistry to identify the key growth factors, matrix proteins and physical conditions that will enhance tissue regeneration and ultimately lead to more effective skeletal repair strategies.


Professor Oreffo said: "We believe a paradigm shift in approach is required if we are to lead internationally in regenerative medicine. Our findings of how stem cells, scaffolds and the physical environment can be combined to induce new bone and cartilage will be used to augment and accelerate bone repair. This will allow us to develop new regimes for cartilage and bone regeneration ultimately leading to more effective treatments”


The research consortium comprises Professor Alicia El Haj, Keele University, Professor Molly Stevens, Imperial College London, Professor Kevin Shakesheff, University of Nottingham and Professor Richard Oreffo, University of Southampton.


Commenting on the award, Professor Douglas Kell, BBSRC Chief Executive said: "Fractures, particularly among older people, are a major cause of morbidly and mortality, and costs the NHS billions of pounds each year. This truly multidisciplinary approach opens up exciting possibilities in the area of skeletal development and repair, an area where advancement is becoming increasingly urgent on both a quality of life and an economic level as our population gets older."


— Ends —


Notes to editors:

The University of Nottingham is ranked in the UK's Top 10 and the World's Top 100 universities by the Shanghai Jiao Tong (SJTU) and Times Higher (THE) World University Rankings.


More than 90 per cent of research at The University of Nottingham is of international quality, according to RAE 2008, with almost 60 per cent of all research defined as ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’. Research Fortnight analysis of RAE 2008 ranks the University 7th in the UK by research power. In 27 subject areas, the University features in the UK Top Ten, with 14 of those in the Top Five.


The University provides innovative and top quality teaching, undertakes world-changing research, and attracts talented staff and students from 150 nations. Described by The Times as Britain's "only truly global university", it has invested continuously in award-winning campuses in the United Kingdom, China and Malaysia. Twice since 2003 its research and teaching academics have won Nobel Prizes. The University has won the Queen's Award for Enterprise in both 2006 (International Trade) and 2007 (Innovation — School of Pharmacy), and was named ‘Entrepreneurial University of the Year’ at the Times Higher Education Awards 2008.


Nottingham was designated as a Science City in 2005 in recognition of its rich scientific heritage, industrial base and role as a leading research centre. Nottingham has since embarked on a wide range of business, property, knowledge transfer and educational initiatives ( in order to build on its growing reputation as an international centre of scientific excellence. The University of Nottingham is a partner in Nottingham: the Science City.


The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) is the UK funding agency for research in the life sciences. Sponsored by Government, BBSRC annually invests around £450 million in a wide range of research that makes a significant contribution to the quality of life for UK citizens and supports a number of important industrial stakeholders including the agriculture, food, chemical, healthcare and pharmaceutical sectors. BBSRC carries out its mission by funding internationally competitive research, providing training in the biosciences, fostering opportunities for knowledge transfer and innovation and promoting interaction with the public and other stakeholders on issues of scientific interest in universities, centres and institutes.


For more information see:

Story credits

 More information is available from Professor Kevin Shakesheff on +44 (0)115 9515104, or Tracey Jewitt in the BBSRC Media Office on +44 (0) 1793 414694,, or Nancy Mendoza in the BBSRC Media Office on +44 (0) 1793 413355 mobile 07785 710536,
Lindsay Brooke

Lindsay Brooke - Media Relations Manager

Email: Phone: +44 (0)115 951 5751 Location: University Park

Additional resources

No additional resources for this article

Related articles

Anti-bacterial collar to help mend broken bones

Published Date
Tuesday 15th February 2011

Major Award for leading expert in regenerative medicine

Published Date
Thursday 30th June 2011

Patients guiding stroke research

Published Date
Thursday 28th January 2010

New bacteria resistant materials discovered

Published Date
Sunday 12th August 2012

Taking tissue regeneration beyond the state-of-the-art

Published Date
Tuesday 3rd July 2012

Media Relations - External Relations

The University of Nottingham
C Floor, Pope Building (Room C4)
University Park
Nottingham, NG7 2RD

telephone: +44 (0) 115 951 5798