About three million Briton currently suffer osteoporosis which is affected by a number factors such as genes, a lack of exercise and poor diet and results in about 60,000 hip, 50,000 wrist and 120,000 spinal fractures every year, according to the National Osteoporosis Society, costing about 1.7 billion in health and social care.
Dr Ifty Ahmed, a researcher at Nottingham University, said his team wanted to provide a preventative treatment, strengthening the bones of those at risk before they suffered a fracture.
Speaking at the Regener8 conference on regenerative medicine, in Leeds last week, he said: “Our aim would be to use screening to spot people who are at risk, then strengthen their bones before they get fractures.
“It means that rather than waiting until people have a fall and break something, we would try to stop that ever happening, along with the consequences, loss of independence, surgery and secondary illnesses.”
Previous attempts have been made to find ways of strengthening thinning bones but the difficulties of protecting the fragile stem cells has meant no such treatments have yet been developed.
Dr Ahmed’s team hope to overcome this problem by puncturing the tiny hollow spheres of calcium phosphate allowing the stem cells to migrate inside them where they are protected.
The experimental treatment has not yet been trialled on humans.
It would involve extracting stem cells from a patient’s bone marrow and mixing them with the microspheres before injecting the paste into the vulnerable bones.
Dr Ahmed said: "If it works, this kind of treatment could be done in a day.”
Until now the team have been funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council but they are now looking for a commercial partner.