Washington D.C. [USA], Oct. 8 : A recent research substantiates that calcium plays a major role in regulating the cells that are responsible for bone growth and the finding could affect treatment for people with head and facial deformities.
Especially when the conditions is caused by too much collagen deposition, such as fibrosis and excessive scarring, as well as diseases of too little bone growth, such as Treacher Collins Syndrome (TCS).
The finding by Michael Rape and his team at the University of California, came from study of the signals that tell undifferentiated stem cells in the very early embryo to mature into bone cells.
In the craniofacial disorder TCS, for instance, the embryo does not form a structure called the neural crest, from which the jaws, inner ear and numerous other bones in the head and face develop.
As a result, people like Francis Smith, a 41-year-old researcher, who visited Rape, required dozens of surgeries during childhood to reconstruct the face, implant hearing aids and even reconstruct the trachea to breathe normally.
The researchers hope that basic research to pinpoint the key signals that trigger proper bone growth can help those like Smith avoid such painful surgeries.
One option could be the implantation of a biodegradable matrix seeded with bone cells called chondrocytes, which would then be stimulated to release collagen, the blueprint for bone growth.
The new findings suggest that stimulating collagen release with calcium would also trigger proper bone growth.
"You would basically add calcium to cells on those support structures, which is fairly easy, and motivate chondrocytes to secrete the collagen that is needed to build a bone structure on top of that support would be exciting but it is very much in the future.
Nevertheless, this might become a possibility the more we understand about how cells make their decisions," Rape said.
The finding also explained how messing with the body's calcium levels during pregnancy can cause facial deformities such as those associated with fetal alcohol syndrome.
The findings were published in the journal Cell..