A phase II clinical study investigating the efficacy of mesenchymal stem cells [MSCs] to treat moderate to severe lupus symptoms has been launched by the Lupus Foundation of America, in collaboration with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (part of the NIH). Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disorder in which the immune system can affect virtually any tissue in the body, including skin, joints and organs. MSCs represent a promising treatment option in that, in addition to the inherent plasticity of MSCs, they also possess immune modulation properties. The NIH is providing resources and oversight for the study, which will investigate how mesenchymal stem cells can effectively regulate and limit the autoimmune response of Lupus sufferers. Currently there are no effective options for their lupus symptoms other than steroid treatments, which have significant side effects, as they are detrimental to vital organ function.
In a breakthrough study, 3D printed organs have been vascularized to sustain the growing tissue and bring printed organs one step closer to fruition. Currently, hundreds of thousands of Americans are on waiting lists for life-saving organs, and 20 patients die waiting each day. This innovative research by Prellis Biologics is making headway to allow for more effective and efficient printing of organs. 3D printing has had to overcome 2 major obstacles: the development of a biological scaffold to allow for three dimensional growth of cells into the desired organs, and the oxygenation and nutrient delivery to the growing tissue for prolonged periods of printing time using blood vessels. Though a biological medium for 3D tissue growth has already been developed, Prellis has created a more effective an efficient method of vascularizing the growing organ tissue, as well as expediting the printing process as a whole.
A genetically modified stem cell therapy for Diffuse Large B-Cell Lymphoma (DLBCL) has been approved by the FDA. Researchers at the Abramson Cancer Center, in collaboration with Novartis, have successfully administered a CAR-T Cell therapy, called Kymriah, for the most common type of non-Hodgkin Lymphoma. DLBCL is a fast growing cancer that affects B lymphocytes, which are responsible for producing antibodies that help fight infections in the body. This groundbreaking treatment involves obtaining autologous (the patient’s own) T cells, which are a more specialized type of stem cell, and genetically engineering the cells to track down and destroy cancerous cells.
In a major breakthrough, researchers are one step closer to growing functional kidneys from human stem cells with the potential of eliminating the need for donated kidney transplants. The collaborative effort by the researchers at Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, University of Melbourne and Leiden University Medical Center has made progress in vascularizing a lab grown kidney organoid. Kidney tissue has been successfully grown in a lab - with all requisite cell types. However, vascularizing the tissue (allowing for blood flow) has proved difficult. This breakthrough research effort has overcome this obstacle to kidney replacement. In an animal model, researchers implanted the human stem cell-derived organoid into healthy kidney tissue, with the organoid maturing and vascularizing into fully fledged kidney tissue in vivo in 4 weeks.
The immunomodulatory properties of mesenchymal stem cells [MSCs] are being tested to relieve the symptoms of asthma - airway inflammation which results in difficulty breathing. Asthmatic symptoms are caused by the body’s hypersensitive immune response to inhaling harmless allergens that trigger inflammation, which constricts airways and causes breathing to become extremely difficult, requiring an inhaler to counteract the inflammation. When administered in an animal model, mesenchymal stem cells (the same type of stem cells found in teeth) have successfully produced anti-inflammatory factors and neuropeptides that counteracted airway hypersensitivity and the production of pro-inflammatory receptors.
Researchers at Cornell University are working on a stem cell-infused implant that could cure insulin deficiency for diabetics. Type I diabetes results from inadequate or malfunctioning insulin-producing beta cells in the islets of the pancreas, as well as an autoimmune response that attacks the body's insulin-producing cells. This treatment utilizes stem cells and directs them to differentiate into these cells. As opposed to daily insulin injections, the treatment is designed to provide a long-term solution that eliminates the need to constantly monitor blood sugar. It utilizes a naturally derived hydrogel to create a thread packed with stem cells induced to become pancreatic islets which is then implanted into the abdomen. Additionally, the treatment addresses what no other current treatment addresses: the body’s immune system attacking the insulin-producing cells. Encasing the cells protects them from the autoimmune response, increasing their efficacy and lifespan.
Researchers at the University of Southern California (USC) School of Medicine have pinpointed the biological processes that lead to the differentiation of skin stem cells into follicles that grow hair. As people age, the ability to regenerate skin cells declines and therefore, the follicles produce less and less hair. Utilizing a combination of bioinformatics and molecular screenings, the researchers studied the differentiation of stem cells into hair follicles of newborn mice, honing in on genetic factors and environmental cell signals this process entails. The process was then successfully implemented when applied to adult mice that lacked hair by introducing the necessary factors that signal stem cells to differentiate into organoids that will grow hair.
Researchers at the UNC School of Medicine and North Carolina State University have created a method of obtaining and culturing stem cells to treat chronic and potentially fatal lung inflammation. Chronic inflammation in the lungs causes the formation of scar tissue that inhibits proper oxygenation of vital organs, like the heart and brain. Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are some of the most common results of chronic inflammation. With many IPF patients not surviving past 5 years following diagnosis, this treatment could significantly prolong their lives. The treatment is done by isolating a patient’s own lung stem cells through biopsy, then culturing and expanding them to clinically relevant numbers. In an animal model, the subjects were induced to have scarring and inflammation in the lungs to mimic IPF in humans. Those that were injected with their own stem cells showed significant improvement in lung function compared to those that received a placebo.
Researchers at University of California San Francisco are utilizing stem cells to produce small, lab-grown organs that are helping identify the source of craniofacial birth defects. Children with these defects must endure a life of difficulties, including trouble breathing, seeing and speaking, due to the deformity of the face or head. However, with this advancement in research, UCSF’s team has been working on a drug that could treat the separation of mutated and normal cells, which is what typically leads to the deformities.
Dr. Farid Saleh at the Erhlich Animal Hospital and Arthritis Therapy Center in Tampa, Florida is utilizing innovative stem cell treatments to improve the lives of pets with degenerative disorders. Just like people, animals can suffer from ailments such as arthritis, and this leads to difficulty moving, which significantly decreases the animal’s quality of life. The Hospital’s application of stem cell treatments in animals could disseminate throughout the medical industry, making treatments more readily accessible to people, in addition to bettering the lives of everyone’s beloved pets.