TechChinese scientists tap into deer antler stem cells for potential bone therapy breakthrough

Chinese scientists tap into deer antler stem cells for potential bone therapy breakthrough

Scientists have grown "mini-antlers" on mice.
Scientists have grown "mini-antlers" on mice.
Images source: © Licensor | shironosov

2:53 PM EST, January 11, 2024

Antlers of male deer, which regrow annually as living tissue, consist of blood vessels and nerves entwined around the rapidly growing bone structure. IFL Science reports that their growth rate is approximately 1.08 inches a day. This regenerative ability of antlers intrigues researchers and raises questions about its possible application in human bone therapy.

Chinese Deer Antler Study in Mice

Scientists at Northwestern Polytechnical University in Xi'an, China decided to study the antlers of sika deer. During the study, they successfully isolated many individual cells and genes crucial for antler growth. They demonstrated that the progenitor cells in the blastema (stem cells aiding organ regeneration) could be a potential source of regenerative cells for higher vertebrates.

Experts observed the growth of sika deer antlers at various stages. They isolated stem cells with the greatest regenerative potential during the study and then cultured them in a Petri dish, a type of laboratory container. The scientists then implanted these cells into the heads of mice. After 45 days, the mice had grown small antlers that gradually increased in size. Observing these changes in the mice facilitated a better understanding of the process.

Ethical Concerns Raised by Chinese Experimentation

The Chinese scientists suggest their observations "offer a new understanding of research into mammals' regenerative abilities and establish a new direction for research on mammalian bone repair and regenerative bone medicine". The IFL Science website, however, mentions that the cross-species cell implantation treatment, if feasible, raises ethical issues. Doubts may also surface regarding the general safety principles involved in this case.

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