Researchers at the University of California Irvine have created a method of engineering mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) to specifically target and help destroy cancer metastasis, which is an indicator of cancer spreading and the cause of approximately 90% of cancer deaths. The researchers are utilizing MSCs that have been engineered to detect stiffened tissues, a typical indicator of breast cancer metastases. These stem cells then release an enzyme upon detection of the cancer cells that triggers the activation of a localized chemotherapy. This is a revolutionary method of treating cancer given that one of the biggest concerns with chemotherapy is its ability to not only harm cancer cells, but also harm healthy cells as well.
A phase III clinical trial utilizing autologous [the patient’s own] mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) has begun, and could offer relief to the millions suffering from ALS. The study is being conducted by Brainstorm Cell Therapeutics with a grant of $16 million from the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine [CIRM].Brainstorm has developed a proprietary method [called NurOwn] for inducing MSCs to secrete neurological growth factors, which exhibits the ability to perpetuate the life of neurons experiencing rapid degradation in ALS patients. In previous clinical trials the treatment demonstrated the ability to slow the progression of ALS immediately following the treatment. The new trial seeks to prolong these beneficial effects.
Researchers at the Andrews Institute for Orthopedics and Sports Medicine are working on a breakthrough clinical trial that could soon bring FDA approval for stem cell knee cartilage repair that’s already available in other countries. Dr. Khay Yong Saw, from Kuala Lumpur, has developed this effective treatment to inject autologous (the patient’s own) stem cells into the deteriorated cartilage to restore its previous durability and function. He is now supervising the process in hopes that his methods can be adapted in an FDA approved treatment. The treatment has the potential to replace invasive surgical procedures that require months in postoperative recovery, and could even utilize mesenchymal stem cells (the same ones found in teeth) given their known properties of differentiating into cartilage tissue. This treatment has already shown promise with over 700 patients in Malaysia in the last 5 years.
Once considered a liability, Red Sox player Drew Pomeranz is now one of the Red Sox’s most consistent players, following a stem cell injection. After erratic starts and being left on the disabled list at the start of the season, Pomeranz underwent an injection of his own stem cells to accelerate the recovery of his elbow injury, opting against surgery and platelet rich plasma injections. Now he’s helping his team retain a top spot in the league with his newly healed arm.
Dr. Nadia Zakaria at the University of Antwerp’s Center for Cell Therapy and Regenerative Medicine has been working on a 3D printing method to create fully functioning human corneas using autologous mesenchymal stem cells [MSCs]. Patients require corneal transplants if the cornea is damaged due to severe infection, injury, or clouding due to genetic disorders such as Fuchs Dystrophy. Current corneal transplants come from donors, but the number of available transplants is scarce. Therefore, patients receiving the transplant likely do not receive one that matches their exact eye shape and curvature, further exacerbating the risk of rejection of transplanted tissue. Dr. Zakaria is utilizing a collagen scaffold to grow layers of the cornea using mesenchymal stem cells [the same type of stem cells found in teeth], and the main goal is to achieve the exact clarity and thickness of a fully-fledged human cornea.
The FDA panel’s unanimous recommendation to approve an autologous leukemia treatment represents a paradigm shift in medicine in which gene therapies and stem cells will play leading roles.
The treatment involves altering the genes of T cells, which are highly specialized stem cells obtained from bone marrow, to target a specific protein on the surface of defective immune cells that cause leukemia. It works by harvesting the cells from the patient, engineering them to target the protein CD-19 on the surface of B Cells, and intravenously administering the cells back into the patient, where they multiply and essentially eradicate the B Cells. Showing promise, over 80% of the patients in the trial have gone into remission.
Dr. Valery Krizhanovsky at the Weizmann Institute of Science has built on the work of previous researchers in order to identify the role of senescent cells in age-related ailments, such as cancers, atherosclerosis, Alzheimer’s Disease, Parkinson’s and others. He explains that senescent cells accumulate in the body, do not follow the stable cell cycle and cease to divide. However, despite the body’s mechanisms for apoptosis, or programmed cell death, these aged cells do not self-destruct. Using stem cells to grow human tissue in the lab, Krizhanovsky is able to accurately determine the behavior of senescent cells in humans, rather than making observations solely based on animal subjects.
The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis has been working on stem cell treatments for injuries to the central nervous system. This particular treatment utilizes the application of autologous stem cells that produce the myelin sheath around neurons. Injuries to the spinal cord result in scar tissue and cavity formation at the site of injury. Given that scar tissue formation hinders signals from being transmitted to the limbs, which then become paralyzed, this treatment has been shown to create a bridge that allows the signal to be transmitted and partially restore limb function in animal subjects.
Indiana University’s School of Medicine, spearheading the efforts of over forty researchers in the U.S. and South Korea, has determined that electro acupuncture can be utilized to induce the release of reparative mesenchymal stem cells, which have healing effects when released into the bloodstream. The electric current that is passed through during acupuncture hastens the communication between the stimulus point on the body and the neurons in the spinal cord. This activates the hypothalamus and directs stem cells to an area of injury or stress, promoting collagen production and tendon repair, both linked to expedited healing times.
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.