A collaborative effort between researchers at Stanford University, the Joint Institute of Metrology and Biology, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology has developed a modified and more targeted version of CRISPR, which is more efficient at editing single nucleotide mutations. The new system is called MAGESTIC (multiplexed, accurate genome-editing through short, trackable, integrated cellular barcodes), and it has been shown to successfully modify genes by accurately targeting the location of defective genes. MAGESTIC ameliorates and addresses the current shortcomings of gene-editing technology by enhancing the ability of CRISPR to target single genes [out of millions] with the purpose of correcting specific mutations.
In a recently published study at Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute, stem cells obtained from younger subjects and injected into aging subjects resulted in improved heart function, and an overall increase in stamina and activity levels. As we age, our heart muscles begin to stiffen, causing fluid to build up in the heart and preventing the muscles from relaxing properly. This is similar to hearts of patients who have experienced heart failure with ejection fraction. Therefore, this research is pivotal in treating both heart failure and age-related deterioration. In an animal model, mice that received the progenitor cells (a more specified type of stem cell) obtained from younger mice showed multifaceted beneficial results. Not only did the older mice display improved heart function, but their activity levels increased, and their telomeres, which shorten as cells age, were regenerated. The implications of this research show that though the stem cells were injected into the heart, beneficial effects were seen all over the body, in addition to showing that younger stem cells are in fact far more proliferative than older cells.
Researchers at the University of California Irvine have created a method of engineering mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) to specifically target and help destroy cancer metastasis, which is an indicator of cancer spreading and the cause of approximately 90% of cancer deaths. The researchers are utilizing MSCs that have been engineered to detect stiffened tissues, a typical indicator of breast cancer metastases. These stem cells then release an enzyme upon detection of the cancer cells that triggers the activation of a localized chemotherapy. This is a revolutionary method of treating cancer given that one of the biggest concerns with chemotherapy is its ability to not only harm cancer cells, but also harm healthy cells as well.
A phase III clinical trial utilizing autologous [the patient’s own] mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) has begun, and could offer relief to the millions suffering from ALS. The study is being conducted by Brainstorm Cell Therapeutics with a grant of $16 million from the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine [CIRM].Brainstorm has developed a proprietary method [called NurOwn] for inducing MSCs to secrete neurological growth factors, which exhibits the ability to perpetuate the life of neurons experiencing rapid degradation in ALS patients. In previous clinical trials the treatment demonstrated the ability to slow the progression of ALS immediately following the treatment. The new trial seeks to prolong these beneficial effects.
Dr. Nadia Zakaria at the University of Antwerp’s Center for Cell Therapy and Regenerative Medicine has been working on a 3D printing method to create fully functioning human corneas using autologous mesenchymal stem cells [MSCs]. Patients require corneal transplants if the cornea is damaged due to severe infection, injury, or clouding due to genetic disorders such as Fuchs Dystrophy. Current corneal transplants come from donors, but the number of available transplants is scarce. Therefore, patients receiving the transplant likely do not receive one that matches their exact eye shape and curvature, further exacerbating the risk of rejection of transplanted tissue. Dr. Zakaria is utilizing a collagen scaffold to grow layers of the cornea using mesenchymal stem cells [the same type of stem cells found in teeth], and the main goal is to achieve the exact clarity and thickness of a fully-fledged human cornea.
Researchers at Stanford University School of Medicine have found that an inflammatory metabolite in the body, typically suppressed with pain relieving and anti-inflammatory drugs like aspirin or ibuprofen, expedites the healing process for muscles by activating stem cells. The metabolite, called prostaglandin E2 (PGE2), is part of the body’s normal inflammatory response, but painkillers usually taken to relieve muscle soreness inhibit its production. The discovery of this mechanism has given insight to scientists of the micro environment stem cells need to function in, paving the way for enhanced treatments for muscle injuries and trauma as well potential treatments to combat the natural degradation of muscle mass that accompanies aging.
Creative Medical Technology Holdings Inc. has announced plans to conduct clinical trials for the treatment of spinal disc degeneration. Lower back pain, caused by disc degeneration, is a leading cause of disability around the world. Building on medical studies that suggests that disc degeneration is caused by the deterioration [over time] of the system of blood vessels that provide nutrients and oxygen to the spine’s discs, the company is developing the protocols for a treatment that introduces autologous [the patient’s own] mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) to the discs of the spinal cord to induce angiogenesis – i.e. the stimulation of new blood vessel production.
Researchers at UT Southwestern Medical Center have identified a gene that directs the production of a stem cell factor (SCF) and a protein, which are both essential for hair growth and pigmentation. Stem cells are concentrated in the skin around hair follicles, and when both the protein and the SCF are active, they move up from the bulb of the follicles to produce pigmented hairs. The genes responsible for the production of the KROX20 protein and the SCF were discovered by working backwards, turning off the gene and observing, in mice subjects, that no pigmentation was present in the hairs and that the subjects became bald.
Summit for Stem Cell Foundation’s scientists are developing a treatment protocol that calls for the reprogramming of autologous [the patient’s own] stem cells to produce dopamine to treat PD. An important aspect of Parkinson’s disease is neural degeneration, which vastly decreases the production of dopamine, a hormone necessary for proper movement. By differentiating stem cells to replace the damaged neurons, the treatment holds the promise of significantly alleviating the symptoms [loss of muscle control] associated with Parkinson’s.