Challenges of bone tissue engineering in orthopaedic patients

World J Orthop. 2017 Feb 18;8(2):87-98. doi: 10.5312/wjo.v8.i2.87.


Bone defects may impede normal biomechanics and the structural stability of bone as an organ. In many cases, the correction of bone defects requires extensive surgical intervention involving the use of bone-grafting techniques and other procedures in which healing is slow, there is a high risk of infection and considerable pain is provoked - with no guarantee of complete correction of the defect. Therefore, the search for surgical alternatives continues to present a major challenge in orthopaedic traumatology. The reamer-irrigator-aspirator (RIA) system, which was devised to avoid the problems that can arise with autograft harvesting from the iliac crest, consists of collecting the product of the femoral canal after reaming. The RIA technique improves osteogenic differentiation of mesenchymal stem cells, compared to bone marrow aspiration or cancellous bone harvesting from the iliac crest using a spoon. Another approach, the Masquelet technique, consists of reconstructing a long bone defect by means of an induced membrane grown onto an acrylic cement rod inserted to fill the defect; in a second surgical step, once the membrane is constituted, the cement rod is removed and cancellous autograft is used to fill the defect. Both in RIA and in the Masquelet technique, osteosynthesis is usually needed. Bone transportation by compression-distraction lengthening principles is commonly implemented for the treatment of large bone loss. However, complications are frequently encountered with these techniques. Among new techniques that have been proposed to address the problem of large bone loss, the application of stem cells in conjunction with tissue engineering techniques is very promising, as is the creation of personalised medicine (or precision medicine), in which molecular profiling technologies are used to tailor the therapeutic strategy, to ensure the right method is applied for the right person at the right time, after determining the predisposition to disease among the general population. All of the above techniques for addressing bone defects are discussed in this paper.

Keywords: Autograft; Bone loss; Bone transportation; Masquelet technique; Mesenchymal stem cells; Personalised medicine; Precision medicine; Reamer-irrigator-aspirator.

Publication types

  • Editorial