Israeli researchers are growing human bones outside the body using an innovative process that turns fat cells into bone.

Bonus Biogroup has invested years of research into the new technology that is poised to dramatically change how bone transplants are done.

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Shai Meretzki, founder and CEO of Bonus, explained that two million patients each year require bone transplantation after hip and knee injuries and the current transplant method is both risky and requires substantial healing time.

“The standard of care today is autologous bone grafting — taking bone from other parts of the body, breaking it and putting it in where needed,” Meratzki said, adding that the procedure involves the patients undergoing two surgeries, the first to harvest the bone matter and the second to transplant it.

The innovative Bonus method cuts down on the trauma and risk by using liposuction to harvest stem cells from a patient’s fat cells and then use them to grow new bone in a lab.

“Our advantage is that the healing process is much faster, and patients of course don’t have to suffer the harvesting procedure,” Meratzki stressed.

The bone growth process developed by Bonus also takes advantage of cutting-edge 3-D printer technology to create a frame in the exact shape and size needed. A live culture of the patient’s own cells is then applied to the printed frame, and in a few months a new bone, with little risk of post-transplant rejection, is ready to be implanted.

The team has successfully tested their implants, which are limited to a few centimeters in size for now, on animals and hope to enter human phase testing soon. If all goes well, Meratzi estimates that the new bone grafts could be on the market in as few as four years.

“The regulatory processes for bone transplants are much easier than if we were using allogeneic bones [because] the cells come from the patient,” Meratzi pointed out, stressing that the innovation in bone regeneration will ultimately cut medical costs and help patients heal faster.

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