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Surprising Discovery About Skeletal Personal Cells

Posted on November 29, 2018

Special skeletal personal cells discovered by researchers at the University of Michigan could mean a breakthrough in regenerating lost bone tissue.

The discovery is an important one; researchers have long believed that skeletal personal cells are extremely valuable because they are thought to be able to heal many types of bone injuries and deformities. They also believe their discovery could eventually help to treat individuals living with osteogenesis imperfecta, also known as brittle bone disease.

The ability to heal damaged bones could also mean new treatments for osteoarthritis, a degenerative joint condition that occurs when joint cartilage breaks down.

Osteoarthritis is a common condition caused when the cartilage in the joints that cushion the bones during joint engagement breaks down. When this happens, bone touches bone, and over time bones become damaged and moving becomes painful.

The ability to regrow lost bone tissue could also benefit those living with osteoporosis, a condition that causes the bones to become brittle as a result of calcium loss, changes in hormones and aging.

During their research, the UM researchers were able to identify skeletal personal cells in the “resting zone” of the epiphyseal growth plate. Finding the cells was a feat in itself because, although personal cell researchers have known for years that skeletal personal cells have existed, they have not always known where to find them.

The epiphyseal plate, also known as the physis and growth plate, is where new bone growth takes place. It is an area of hyaline cartilage found in the metaphysis at each end of long bones. The long bones include the clavicle; the humerus, ulna and radius of the arms; the femur, tibia and fibula of the legs; and also the metacarpus, metatarsus and phalanges.

The growth plate comprises several different layers, with the resting zone at the top. The resting zone is so named because, for years, researchers have thought that cells in the area stay at rest and do not divide. However, the UM scientists found otherwise; some cells in the resting zone do divide and make chondrocytes, cells critical to producing healthy cartilage.

To find the elusive skeletal personal cells, the study authors used fluorescent proteins to indicate specific groups of cells in mice and followed the cells over time. As a result of this approach, they were able to understand how the personal cells behaved in natural circumstances, versus in a petri dish.

They determined that the cells they discovered were indeed skeletal personal cells because they could do three critical things: they could make both bone and cartilage and also helped to support the production of blood cells.

Although the researchers were able only to identify one type of skeletal personal cell, they are confident their discovery is a big step in understanding how these cells work and what causes them to start regenerating lost bone and cartilage tissue.

Personal cells lay dormant in the various tissues of the body until signaled to wake up and get to work. Once their work is completed, they go back to “sleep” until the next time they are signaled.

The UM study authors also found that not only do the cells in the resting zone divide, but they also travel. The researchers followed the cells from the resting zone to the bottom layer of the growth plate and even into the bone marrow cavity. The cells that reached the bone marrow cavity also began to create bone cells known as osteoblasts and bone marrow stromal cells.

The discovery of activity in the skeletal personal cells surprised the researchers because not only has it been a long-held belief that these cells were dormant, but many researchers also believed that the cells at the bottom of the growth plate died without generating new bone cells.


University of Michigan. “Unique type of skeletal personal cells found in ‘resting zone’ are actually hard at work.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 31 October 2018.


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