Move over, bacon: There’s a new use for pig fat. Researchers have used it to create replacement jawbones, The New York Times reports. The human jawbone and the connecting joints are difficult to replace; unlike most bones in the human body, the jawbone is curved, and both the bone and joints need to withstand pressure as we chew. Building off a previous study that grew a small piece of the jawbone from human fat, researchers decided to try to grow the entire jawbone and joint in pigs, which has a similar jaw anatomy to humans. The scientists derived stem cells from pig fat, using cow bones as “scaffolding” to shape the jaw. The newly formed bone and cartilage were then transplanted into pigs who had their jawbones removed. Six months after implantation, the researchers found the replacement jawbone had fully healed and was nearly identical to the original, they report this week in Science Translational Medicine. The strategy will now be used in a clinical trial to repair jaw structure in six patients with birth defects.
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