SCIENTISTS from Southampton have made a breakthrough in creating bone cells - using plastics found in CDs and bullet-proof windows.
Experts say the technique could lead to “revolutionary” treatment for people who have broken a bone or need a hip replacement because of osteoporosis and osteoarthritis.
The research at the University of Southampton involved researchers using polycarbonate plastic - normally used to make CDs - to manipulate human stem cells towards becoming bone cells.
The scientists were able to do this without using chemicals, which they say could offer an accessible and cheaper way of using stem cells.
Researchers also believe the discovery could lead to more medical research into how the plastic could be used in medicine.
Leader of the research team Professor Richard Oreffo said: “To generate bone cells for regenerative medicine and further medical research remains a significant challenge.
“However we have found that by harnessing surface technologies that allow the generation and ultimately scale up of human embryonic stem cells to skeletal cells, we can aid the tissue engineering process. “This is very exciting.
“Our research may offer a whole new approach to skeletal regenerative medicine.”
The research, funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, is the latest discovery by the team.
They found out in 2011 that it was possible to emboss plastic with “nanopatterns” - or tiny imprints on the surface - to create a cheaper and easier way of growing and spreading adult stem cells.
Scientists think the latest discovery could lead to new treatments for a whole range of degenerative conditions.
Dr Nikolaj Gadegaard from the University of Glasgow has worked with scientists in Southampton on other stem cell research.
He said: "Our previous collaborative research showed exciting new ways to control mesenchymal stem cell - stem cells from the bone marrow of adults - growth and differentiation on nanoscale patterns.
“This new Southampton-led discovery shows a totally different stem cell source, embryonic, also respond in a similar manner and this really starts to open this new field of discovery up.
“With more research impetus, it gives us the hope that we can go on to target a wider variety of degenerative conditions than we originally aspired to. “This result is of fundamental significance."