Scientists believe that humans will soon be able to recover from injuries such as broken spines, as treatment looks to boost the body's ability to heal itself.
A new study in the journal Regenerative Medicine describes how scientists were able to stimulate the self-repair response in rats.
Rats in the study were given two drugs, one of which is usually given to bone marrow transplant patients, and another which is used for bladder control.
This cocktail caused the rats' bone marrow to produce a greater number of mesenchymal stem cells, the cells which can develop into bone tissue.
As a result, enhanced calcium binding was seen at the site of the rats' spinal injuries, speeding up the production of new bone as well as healing wounds.
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The study's authors hope that one day, such treatments will work on humans.
"We know that when bones break they will heal, and this requires the activation of stem cells in the bone," study co-author Sara Rankin from the National Heart and Lung Institute at Imperial College London, said in a statement.
"However, when the damage is severe, there are limits to what the body can do of its own accord.
"We hope that by using these existing medications to mobilise stem cells, as we were able to do in rats in our new study, we could potentially call up extra numbers of these stem cells, in order to boost our bodies' own ability to mend itself and accelerate the repair process."
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Both drugs tested on rats are already widely used, so researchers are hopeful human trails can begin soon.
If these trials produce the same results as those seen in rats, then it's hoped the treatment could help to not only repair spinal injuries but also speed up the rate at which broken bones heal and mend damaged tissues in other organs.
Dr Tariq Fellous, first author of the research, said: "We first need to see if these medications release the stem cells in healthy volunteers before we can test them in patients with fractures.
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"We have the drugs and know they are safe to use in humans — we just need the funding for the human trials."
Dr Andia Redpath, who also co-authored the paper, added that repurposing existing medicines – so-called Regenerative Pharmacology – could have major potential as an efficient and cheaper way of treating diseases.
"Rather than devising new stem cell treatments from scratch that involve lengthy and expensive trials, our approach harnesses the power of the body's own stem cells, using existing drugs.
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"We already know the treatments in our study are safe, it's now just a matter of exploring further if they help our bodies heal."
Stem cells are providing incredible new medical breakthroughs all the time.
Earlier this month, scientists trialled 3D-printed skin containing stem cells to treat burns victims .
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