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.
The Texas legislature has just passed House Bill 810, allowing chronically or terminally ill patients access to adult stem cell treatments that are currently in clinical trials but are not yet approved by the FDA. Hence, potentially successful treatments may now be accessed by patients who have exhausted all other measures of treatment, but whose time will have run out by the time these treatments receive approval.
Dr. Bernard Thébaud at the Ottawa Hospital in Canada has been researching the application of mesenchymal stem cells to treat bronchopulmonary dysplasia, a disorder found in nearly half of the infants born before 28 weeks’ gestation. Given that the lungs are the last organs to develop, premature babies suffer from a variety of respiratory ailments, and this deficiency leads to problems with the brain and eyesight as well. Showing promising results in reduction of inflammation and tissue repair in mice subjects, Dr. Thébaud's team has been given a grant to begin clinical trials with 10 to 15 prematurely born patients. The trials are expected to commence within the next two years.
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.