Israeli biotech company successfully grows bones in lab

Bonus BioGroup begins second trial of 60 operations; aims to create ‘spare parts’ for human beings

Scientists work in a sterile environment preparing regrown bone for Bonus BioGroup. (Sivan Geffen/Times of Israel)
Scientists work in a sterile environment preparing regrown bone for Bonus BioGroup. (Sivan Geffen/Times of Israel)

Haifa-based biotech company Bonus BioGroup has entered the second trial of a clinical study seeking to regrow bones in a lab. The first trial, which began four years ago and comprised 32 patients, was completed successfully, according to Dr. Shai Meretzki, CEO and founder of Bonus BioGroup.

The process they have designed could come out of an an H.G. Wells novel. Liposuction is used to retrieve fat cells from the body, from which damage-controlling cells are isolated. The isolated cells are then grown in a bioreactor, a man-made simulation of the human body. After two weeks, the new bone, tailored to the patient’s needs, is injected back inside of the patient in the form of thousands of tiny, living bone particles called BonoFill.

According to Meretzki, the new bone is very much alive. It can be strengthened, and it can grow along with the patient, a particular point of interest when it comes to regenerating children’s bones. Elderly patients, as well as patients suffering from osteoporosis, infections, cancer, or trauma accidents, could find themselves with new bones up to seven times stronger than an original bone. Cleft palates, currently treated with a series of surgeries spanning over years, could be healed in infancy.

Dr. Shai Meretzki, CEO and founder of Bonus BioGroup. (Sivan Geffen/Times of Israel)

In addition, Meretzki estimates that the procedure, if and when it is adopted by hospitals, will cost less than the current bone regrowth treatment, which can cost up to $90,000.

The new developments are being spearheaded by Meretzki, along with Prof. Ephraim Tzur, scientific adviser of Bonus Biogroup, and Prof. Nimrod Rozen, head of the orthopedic ward of Haemek Hospital.

A regrown bone (right) can replace the missing bone (left). (Sivan Geffen/Times of Israel)

The second trial will consist of over 60 operations, with two groups of patients, cranial and orthopedic, and will be followed by another trial with a larger group of participants. According to Meretzki, the bone regenerating treatment is expected to finish its trials, gain FDA approval and hit the market in three to four years.

In the next stage of development, the team hopes to focus on regenerating fat and cartilage. The goal is to create “spare parts” for human beings, to be able to heal knees, hips, shoulders and elbows. Regenerating fat would allow them to replace silicon breast implants with actual fat from the patient’s body.

Rozen, who has completed three surgeries in the new trial, is optimistic about the future. His first patient was a 28-year old man from a nearby Arab village whose arm had lost bone in the course of a car accident, and he has 14 patients on his waiting list.

“I can replace every bone in any place in the human body,” Rozen said.

In time, he hopes to bring their technology to third world countries for humanitarian surgeries.

The company, with 40 people currently on staff, has received $20 million of investments.

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