Long bone nonunion in the context of congenital pseudarthrosis or carcinologic resection (with intercalary bone allograft implantation) is one of the most challenging pathologies in pediatric orthopedics. Autologous cancellous bone remains the gold standard in this context of long bone nonunion reconstruction, but with several clinical limitations. We then assessed the feasibility and safety of human autologous scaffold-free osteogenic 3-dimensional (3D) graft (derived from autologous adipose-derived stem cells [ASCs]) to cure a bone nonunion in extreme clinical and pathophysiological conditions.
Human ASCs (obtained from subcutaneous adipose tissue of 6 patients and expanded up to passage 4) were incubated in osteogenic media and supplemented with demineralized bone matrix to obtain the scaffold-free 3D osteogenic structure as confirmed in vitro by histomorphometry for osteogenesis and mineralization. The 3D “bone-like” structure was finally transplanted for 3 patients with bone tumor and 3 patients with bone pseudarthrosis (2 congenital, 1 acquired) to assess the clinical feasibility, safety, and efficacy. Although minor clones with structural aberrations (aneuploidies, such as tri or tetraploidies or clonal trisomy 7 in 6%–20% of cells) were detected in the undifferentiated ASCs at passage 4, the osteogenic differentiation significantly reduced these clonal anomalies. The final osteogenic product was stable, did not rupture with forceps manipulation, did not induce donor site morbidity, and was easily implanted directly into the bone defect. No acute (<3 mo) side effects, such as impaired wound healing, pain, inflammatory reaction, and infection, or long-term side effects, such as tumor development, were associated with the graft up to 4 years after transplantation.
We report for the first time that autologous ASC can be fully differentiated into a 3D osteogenic-like implant without any scaffold. We demonstrated that this engineered tissue can safely promote osteogenesis in extreme conditions of bone nonunions with minor donor site morbidity and no oncological side effects.