Researchers at USC [University of Southern California] have utilized stem cells to track neuronal growth and identify specific genes that appear to be responsible for the development of schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and depression. The study linked the DISC1 gene to the development of schizophrenia, which currently does not have effective treatments and causes disproportionate disability compared to other neurological disorders. Like many neurological disorders, the source of schizophrenia has been ambiguous and this research, with the use of stem cells, is helping to navigate this disorder. Through the utilization of stem cells, the study determined how genes like DISC1 function in the body, and their downstream impact on protein function and neurotransmitter production by tracking the gene expression.
“Clean meat” company Future Meat Technologies anticipate they can bring the price of lab-grown, “meatless” meat down to approximately $8 per kg [$4 per pound]. The process involves obtaining mesenchymal stem cells from the animal and differentiating the stem cells into both muscle and fat tissues, which are indistinguishable from those found in standard meat. The meat cooks, tastes and smells exactly like anything you’d get from an animal- however, the biggest hurdle has been its high price. Future Meat Technologies looks to overcome this hurdle by bringing costs down, by differentiating stem cells more efficiently and scaling up production.
Researchers at Tufts University School of Dental Medicine are creating bioengineered teeth from dental stem cells, with the ultimate goal of replacing dental implants. The innovative approach utilizes a hydrogel that has been developed to encapsulate dental stem cells enabling them to differentiate and grow into buds that can be implanted to grow into healthy teeth. In a pre-clinical model, the procedure involves using the hydrogel to provide a scaffold for the stem cells to grow in vitro, followed by the implantation of the scaffold in vivo, where the stem cells developed into whole tooth structures.
UCLA researchers have developed a potential stem cell based treatment for Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD). This degenerative muscular disorder - caused by a genetic mutation in a protein essential for skeletal muscle function - primarily affects young men and boys, degenerating skeletal muscle to the point where it eventually wastes away. This severe degeneration of skeletal muscle results in almost a complete lack of voluntary movement. The UCLA team used the gene editing technology, CRISPR, to repair the mutated gene for the protein in stem cells obtained from the subjects and reintroduced the re-programmed muscle cells back into the subjects. In an animal model, the re-programmed cells successfully produced the dystrophin protein, reversing the degeneration of the skeletal muscle. The team has also conducted a second set of biological markers to ensure complete differentiation into adult muscle cells.
A team of researchers at the Hadassah Medical Center in Israel has developed a unique method of applying a patient’s own stem cells to restore mobility following progressive multiple sclerosis (MS). MS is an autoimmune disorder in which the body attacks its own neurons and affects millions of people worldwide. Severely progressive MS leads to complete loss of limb function, memory problems, seizures, and even systemic organ failure. This groundbreaking, double-blind, Phase II clinical trial successfully administered autologous (the patient’s own) mesenchymal stem cells, which were cultured and expanded to clinically significant numbers, and then applied directly into the spinal fluid. The treatment simultaneously addressed the two problems of MS - inflammatory immune response and the destruction of the outer coating of neurons that allows for quick signal transduction thereby engendering a significant increase in efficacy.
Sanford Health is heading into the second phase of clinical trials involving autologous (the patient’s own) stem cells to treat non-healing wounds and ulcers on the body. The trial will be recruiting patients 18 and older to continue testing the efficacy of stem cells in treating wounds that would not heal due to a person’s preexisting conditions. People with weakened immune systems could also benefit from this treatment, given that it would prevent the enormous risk of infection that non-healing wounds pose. Additionally, the treatment could even be applied to heal wounds from surgeries, expediting recovery time dramatically.
The team at Central Hospital in Nancy, France is conducting research utilizing dental stem cells to regrow and restore bone density. The trial aims to direct dental mesenchymal stem cells to differentiate into engineered osteoblasts, as well as promoting angiogenesis, which is necessary given that bones typically lack sufficient vascularization to make efficient repairs. The benefit of using autologous [the patient’s own] stem cells makes this an effective treatment option that does not pose a risk of rejection. By directing stem cells to promote bone mineralization and endothelial growth, as well as creating vascularization to promote healing, stem cells can be applied to a variety of bone trauma and deficiencies.
Researchers at University of Glasgow have developed a new “nanokicking” technology, which directs mesenchymal stem cells to precisely differentiate into a bone material for use in fracture repairs and bone grafting. By subjecting the stem cells to ‘nanokicking’ – precise, nanoscale vibrations, while the cells are in a collagen gel, these cells can more effectively transform into bone cells capable of replenishing damaged or depleted bone mass. Current bone grafts obtained from patients themselves nearly never yield enough bone material to be clinically relevant for severe injuries, and donor bone grafts have a high risk of rejection hence, autologous stem cell grafts represent an optimal treatment option for patients suffering from any type of bone trauma or deficiency. With bone being the second most grafted tissue [behind blood], ‘nanokicking’ the patient’s own stem cells would significantly impact patient outcomes following reconstructive, maxillofacial and orthopedic surgeries.
A fourteen-year-old cancer patient has gone into full remission after partaking in the clinical trial of a stem cell therapy conducted at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. The recently approved FDA treatment, also known as chimeric antigen receptor T-cell [CAR T cell] therapy, works by obtaining autologous (the patient’s own) immune stem cells, genetically altering and expanding them to recognize a specific molecule on the surface of cancer cells and become targeted cancer killers. In this case, it was used to treat acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL) originating in the B cells.
Researchers at the University of Minnesota, world leaders in the treatment of Epidermolysis Bullosa (EB), have developed a stem cell treatment [utilizing mesenchymal stem cells – MSCs] to treat the disorder. This devastating condition involves problems with connective tissue, making skin blister and tear with the slightest contact; severe cases impact internal organ tissues as well. Affecting 1 in every 20,000 children, the disorder can lead to severe infections and be fatal. The team at the University utilized a treatment involving complete renewal of the immune system through chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant, followed by the administration of mesenchymal stem cells to regenerate the skin tissue.