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.
Researchers at Novoheart have created functional mini heart organoids, which are the first of their kind to contain chambers, like those found in fully grown human hearts. This advancement in stem cell engineering will expedite drug trials, which could bring potential cures to those who need them much sooner. Typically, new drugs take many years and require exorbitant resources to bring them to market, but Novoheart’s mini heart organoids look to disrupt the status quo and speed up the development of treatment options. Since these hearts have tissues differentiated from adult stem cells, the organoids behave and react to treatments like real hearts would, which allows researchers to detect and eliminate detrimental side effects long before reaching clinical trials. Additionally, the heart organoids can be used to understand cardiovascular diseases, which affect millions of people around the world.
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.
Researchers at Newcastle University are 3D printing corneas utilizing stem cells. The process involves mixing stem cells in a bio-gel which is derived from seaweed and collagen that allows these stem cells to be cultured and printed easily and efficiently into fully functioning corneas. The cornea plays an important role in focusing light that enters the eye. Technically, blindness caused by corneal damage is easily reversible with a corneal transplant. However, there is a vast shortage of donor corneas due to general organ and tissue donation shortages. In addition, there is also a significant risk of rejection - as is the case with any donated tissue.
“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.
A mesenchymal stem cell treatment for patients with cardiac muscle degeneration and ventricular failure is being conducted at the MedStar Heart and Vascular Institute. The patients currently being recruited for the study are those who require left ventricular assist devices (LVADs) in order to pump their heart, and these patients are in severe stages of cardiac failure. In pre-clinical models, intravenous mesenchymal stem cell injections have greatly improved left ventricular function, which is responsible for pumping and pressurizing the blood to the rest of the body. Additionally, there was a significant decrease in the inflammatory response that is indicative of damaged cardiac muscles. By reducing inflammation researchers hope to not only provide immediate relief for the strained cardiac muscle, but also slow or stop the progression of heart failure.
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.
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.
Researchers at the Salk Institute are developing an autologous stem cell cure to treat hemophilia, a genetic disorder affecting millions worldwide. Hemophilia is a disorder in which a person’s blood has a diminished ability to clot, posing the risk of severe bleeding from minor injuries like nosebleeds. Additionally, people with hemophilia are at an even greater risk for internal bleeding, which can arise from minor injuries. Hemophilia is typically inherited but can also be acquired in adulthood. The genetic disorder is caused by an inappropriate immune response where immune cells attack the blood’s clotting factors, or a mutation that prevents the production of the clotting factor altogether. This treatment involves obtaining autologous (the patient’s own) stem cells, editing them to correct the faulty gene with the help of CRISPR (a gene editing technology), and reintroducing the cells back into the body.
Legendary golfer Jack Nicklaus is back on the course, thanks to stem cells. After years of debilitating chronic back pain that limited his playing time, the autologous [his own stem cells] treatment has him back swinging and playing competitively again. By utilizing his own stem cells, Jack virtually eliminated any chance of rejection, thereby significantly increasing the odds of a successful outcome.