Autologous cell-based therapy for treatment of large bone defects: from bench to bedside

Eur J Trauma Emerg Surg. 2018 Oct;44(5):649-665. doi: 10.1007/s00068-018-0906-y. Epub 2018 Jan 19.


Objectives: Reconstruction of long segmental bone defects is demanding for patients and surgeons, and associated with long-term treatment periods and substantial complication rates in addition to high costs. While defects up to 4-5 cm length might be filled up with autologous bone graft, heterologous bone from cadavers, or artificial bone graft substitutes, current options to reconstruct bone defects greater than 5 cm consist of either vascularized free bone transfers, the Masquelet technique or the Ilizarov distraction osteogenesis. Alternatively, autologous cell transplantation is an encouraging treatment option for large bone defects as it eliminates problems such as limited autologous bone availability, allogenic bone immunogenicity, and donor-site morbidity, and might be used for stabilizing loose alloplastic implants.

Methods: The authors show different cell therapies without expansion in culture, with ex vivo expansion and cell therapy in local bone defects, bone healing and osteonecrosis. Different kinds of cells and scaffolds investigated in our group as well as in vivo transfer studies and BMC used in clinical phase I and IIa clinical trials of our group are shown.

Results: Our research history demonstrated the great potential of various stem cell species to support bone defect healing. It was clearly shown that the combination of different cell types is superior to approaches using single cell types. We further demonstrate that it is feasible to translate preclinically developed protocols from in vitro to in vivo experiments and follow positive convincing results into a clinical setting to use autologous stem cells to support bone healing.

Keywords: BMC; Bone defect; Bone marrow mononuclear cells; Cell therapy; Regeneration; Stem cells.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Bone Diseases / surgery*
  • Bone Marrow Cells / cytology*
  • Bone Substitutes / therapeutic use
  • Cell- and Tissue-Based Therapy / methods*
  • Humans
  • Osteogenesis / physiology*
  • Stem Cells / cytology
  • Tissue Scaffolds
  • Transplantation, Autologous


  • Bone Substitutes