The ossicle generated by the team of Prof. Farrell at the Erasmus University Medical Center is derived from cells from patients, children who underwent surgery to have their cleft palate reconstructed. “If there are leftover bone chips from the surgery, we can then take them and isolate the marrow stromal cells. After growing these cells in the lab, we can generate pellets and turn them into cartilage.” The original material is harvested for the reconstruction surgery and the leftover material, if not used for research purposes, would have been thrown away. This is done with implicit consent according to the regulations of the medical ethical committee of Erasmus MC. Patients, or their responsible carers, are informed about this possibility and if they disagree, they can opt-out from the waste material being used in this manner.
“We wouldn’t be able to do our work without those cells; they are the only source for the tissue, so precious for us,” says Dr. Farrell. The experiments in his lab need a constant supply of bone-generating cells, but this type of cells can’t be immortalized. “We can grow them in the lab and replicate them, but only up to a certain extent. Afterward, they became exhausted and we need a new supply – that’s why the tissue donation is so important for us.” The analysis performed by Eric and his group concern only general biological features of the cells; no sensitive or genetic data are collected. The anonymous donors feel generally comfortable with this procedure, yet, with simple action, they provide a valuable contribution to our research.