When self-driven individuals channel their passions into something they want to practice all the time, the results can be astounding. Nina Tandon, CEO and co-founder of the startup New York-based company EpiBone, found herself venturing into the field of biotechnology from an innermost desire to learn how things work.
Her inquisitive nature made her continually explore how biology affects everyday life experiences. These days, she and her team are intently looking at helping thousands of patients requiring affordable personalized bone graft solutions.
A bone graft is a medical procedure involving taking bone from elsewhere to fill the gap created by a person’s injury. A surgeon’s options – cutting the bone from another part of the body or getting the bone from a dead person – are not without risks.
There is the risk of infection and rejection by the body of the graft, or worse, nerve damage may occur. Tandon has sought to do away with both options. She figured the alternative may be to grow your own bone, from your own cells, and in the exact size and shape needed.
EpiBone set out to make this a reality. Tandon and her team utilize stem cells and a special type of incubator to grow durable, living bones.
The Moving Force
Nina Tandon is a Columbia University postdoctoral researcher and Cooper Union adjunct professor. As a biomedical engineering student, she initially focused on the strips of muscle lining the heart.
Tandon moved to the delicate layers of skin that protect the human body. In 2013, she used neonatal heart cells and electrical stimulation to come up with a 5mm x 5mm piece of engineered -– and beating -– cardiac tissue.
These days, Tandon and her team are working on the various challenges that come with developing a superior bone graft that will have to be custom-built with a patient’s own stem cells. The process — which offers hope for hundreds of thousands of people set to undergo bone-related surgery — starts with a CT scan of the bone defect for an exact size and shape picture.
Medical specialists will then take stem cells from the patient’s fat cells. EpiBone uses multipotent stem cells capable of developing into many different tissues, including bone.
One of the major challenges is getting federal approval. If plans fall into place, Tandon’s technology could possibly be implemented in people within the next five to 10 years.
Wide Use of Stem Cell Therapy
Cell therapy using a patient’s own live cells has become widely used to replace damaged cells or deliver therapies to target worn-out tissues/organs and promote self-healing.
A possible effect of regenerating a completely new organ using adult stem cells is the rejection of the replaced tissues in the human body. Moreover, exhaustive research on the construction of complicated tissues and organs mimicking the original organs is necessary.
It may seem like a tall order for the EpiBone team to actualize its plan to finally build personalized bones. Yet the start-up firm’s go-getting CEO is highly optimistic that it can happen.
As she tweeted at yearend, it is time to “stop being afraid of what could go wrong and start being positive about what could go right.” The growing research & development investment in regenerative medicine has also created new opportunities for key players to regenerate vital human organs.