Researchers at UCLA have developed a ‘bionic thymus’ capable of transforming blood stem cells into T cells of the immune system that can be targeted to attack cancer cells. During the transformation, the researchers were also able to incorporate a tumor-targeting gene in anticipation of utilizing the cells to fight cancers. T Cell production is a long and complex biological process in the body and many cancer patients may not have enough of their own T cells to collect and direct to combat their cancer. Therefore, the creation of an artificial thymus has the potential to resolve this issue. The process also shuts off the expression of normal T cell surface receptors, which the researchers believe may enable the cells to be used by other patients without the risk of rejection.
Researchers from Imperial College London, led by Dr. Paolo Muraro, have refined a stem cell treatment for Multiple Sclerosis (MS); using the patient’s own stem cells to reset the immune system and “freeze” the disease. MS is a disease in which the body’s immune system attacks the protective sheath (myelin) that covers nerve fibers thereby causing communication disruptions between the brain and the rest of the body. The treatment works by first recovering healthy stem cells from the patient and then, using high-dose chemotherapy to kill the remaining damaged immune cells. Reintroducing the recovered stem cells into the patient’s body reboots the immune system and halts the disease.
Researchers at the University of Texas Health Science Center, led by Dr. Charles Cox, are utilizing autologous [the patient’s own] stem cells to treat traumatic brain injury (TBI). The results demonstrated that the stem cells reduced the body’s inflammatory response to the trauma and preserved brain tissue – a significant advancement from current therapies used to treat TBI. 1.7 million Americans sustain TBI annually and TBI is a contributing factor to a third of all injury related deaths.
Stem Cells may be the key to maintaining your youth as we age. Researchers at the University of Illinois revealed that injecting mesenchymal stem cells [MSCs - the same type of stem cells found in teeth] into the leg muscles of mice facilitated the repair and strengthening of muscles following exercise. Skeletal muscle decreases in mass and function as we age. Armed with a more nuanced understanding of how muscles respond to exercise, researchers are developing novel therapies utilizing MSCs to rejuvenate aged or damaged muscles in humans.
Dr. Christian Jorgensen, head of the clinical unit for osteoarticular diseases, and his team from Lapeyronie University Hospital in Montpellier, France have a treatment for arthritis using the patient’s own [autologous] stem cells. Following the recovery of the stem cells, they were injected directly into the knee joint affected by arthritis. The experiment consisted of three groups receiving different dosages of the stem cells. Interestingly, each group experienced significant improvements in pain and mobility of the joint.
A new advancement in stem cell differentiation has been developed by UNSW Australia researchers. The technique utilizes autologous stem cells treated with a series of growth factors to promote cell plasticity. The mixture is then inserted into damaged tissues, promoting growth and healing.
Sepsis is a systemic inflammatory response to severe infection, impairing metabolic function across all organ systems--affecting some 28 million people and claiming 8 million victims worldwide each year. Septic shock can lead to permanent neurological and muscular damage. Researchers at the Ottawa Hospital hope to change these statistics with an innovative therapy using injections of mesenchymal stem cells.
Mesenchymal stem cells have been proven to act as enhancer agents of local and systemic effects of radiotherapy. This development could lead to effective use of radiotherapy in cancer treatment. José Mariano Ruiz de Almodóvar, lead author of this research explains, “MSCs have a huge potential for the treatment of cancer, given that they are capable of burying themselves in a tumor and, when preactivated or directly activated by in vivo radiation, release cytokines and tumor suppressor proteins which significantly improve the control mechanisms the ionizing radiation exerts on tumors.”
Scientists from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases have developed a gene therapy utilizing stem cells, which restores immunity to patients with SCID-X1, also referred to as “Bubble Boy” disease. This genetic disorder prevents immune cells from developing properly, leaving patients prone to potentially fatal infections.
Scientists from the University of California Los Angeles have identified the origins cells of human articular cartilage. Cartilage loss is at the forefront of American medicine, with osteoarthritis currently affecting more than 20 million people in the US. This experiment could serve as a biological roadmap for regenerative therapies repairing cartilage defects and damage.