By Hilary White

HELSINKI, Finland, February 4, 2008 ( – Dramatic results continue to be achieved by scientists using stem cells taken from adult patients. On Friday, Reuters reported that scientists in Helsinki, Finland, had replaced the upper jaw of a 65 year-old man, with a bone graft that had been grown from his own cells.

Dr. Riitta Suuronen, head of the Regea Institute of Regenerative Medicine, and a specialist in oral and maxillofacial surgery, told a news conference, “From the outside nobody would be able to tell he has been through such a procedure.” The Institute, associated with Tampere University, is a leader in the field of tissue engineering and started its tissue bank in 2005.

The patient, who is not named, suffered the loss of his upper jaw after tumours had been removed.

The stem cells came from the man’s fatty tissue and were cultivated for two weeks. From the cells that developed, the scientists selected a set of cells called mesenchymal stem cells – those that give rise to bone tissue. These were placed in a scaffold created from a biomaterial that mimics the body’s natural bone-growth process.

The structure was then placed inside the patient’s abdomen and allowed to grow for nine months. Screws and microsurgery were used to implant the structure in the man’s head and connect blood vessels to arteries in his neck.

“There have been a couple of similar-sounding procedures before, but these didn’t use the patient’s own stem cells that were first cultured and expanded in laboratory and differentiated into bone tissue,” said Dr. Suuronen

The Regea Institute uses both patient-derived stem cells and those taken from “voluntarily donated embryos, unsuitable for artificial insemination or otherwise defective”. Regea Tissue Bank stores and delivers human tissue for clinical purposes to hospitals in Finland according to guidelines set out by the European Union.

The field of tissue engineering and regenerative medicine is among the most exciting today and it is largely driven by breakthroughs using non-embryonic sources. In a procedure similar to that of the Regea Institute, in 2004 a German man received a new lower jaw that had been grown in his back, using a combination of his own bone tissues and a titanium scaffold.