At this year’s Lung Science Conference in Estoril, Portugal, researchers revealed that mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) can be effective in treating chronic inflammatory lung diseases, such as COPD or cystic fibrosis, which currently have no cure. In pre-clinical trials, MSCs injected intravenously into mice with inflammatory lung diseases demonstrated an ability to repair the damaged lung tissue and alleviate inflammation by decreasing the number of neutrophils and monocytic cells, which are indicators of inflammation.
Scientists at the University of California San Francisco have recently found that a majority of the body’s megakaryocytes, which produce platelets, are actually working in the lungs to produce blood, and the lungs also contain and synthesize mesenchymal stem cells that can replace those of the bone marrow when necessary. When the stem cells typically working in the lungs were administered to mice with low platelet levels, or where blood-producing stem cells in the lungs were not present, the stem cells from the working lungs assumed the responsibility of the stem cells that normally carry out this process.
A team at the Stem Cell Medical Clinic in Seoul, South Korea has been investigating the use of mesenchymal stem cells [MSCs] as a non-invasive, non-surgical alternative for repairing a torn meniscus. Meniscus tears prove complicated because of their lack of vascularity and blood flow, significantly increasing healing time. Serious injuries to the least vascular part of the meniscus normally require meniscectomies. The use of MSCs has demonstrated an ability to regenerate the fibrocartilage of the meniscus, as well as prevent early development of osteoarthritis, a major side effect of a meniscectomy.
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.
Doctors Mark Foglietti and Michael Kellis of the Ohio Stem Cell Treatment Center are developing a treatment utilizing autologous [the patient’s own] stem cells to treat Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE). CTE is a degenerative disease that effects people who have been subjected to repeated blows to the head – such as NFL players – especially those whom experienced multiple concussions.
When stem cells are taken out of the body and placed in cultures, the microenvironment that permits the generation of an extracellular matrix is lost, impacting their functionality. To address this shortcoming, a team of researchers from A*STAR Institute of Medical Biology - led by Michael Raghunath and Cedric Badowski, in conjunction with scientists at the National University of Singapore utilized a technique termed 'macromolecular crowding’ [that mimics the microenvironment of the cells] to encourage stem cell differentiation and regeneration.
Researchers from the University of Pittsburg School of Medicine are utilizing mesenchymal stem cells [MSCs] to develop a treatment for Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis (IPF). MSCs possess valuable properties that make them particularly suitable for potential treatments – chief amongst them are; their plasticity [ability to differentiate into a particular tissue type], their anti-inflammatory capabilities and, their immunomodulatory properties. Currently, there are five Phase 1 clinical trials registered utilizing MSCs to treat IPF.
Dr. Leo Behie, of the University of Calgary, in collaboration with Dr. António Salgado and Dr. Nuno Sousa of Portugal, has developed a novel stem cell based method to treat Parkinson’s disease. The new strategy utilizes autologous [the patient’s own] mesenchymal stem cells [MSCs] thereby eliminating the need for a donor and immunosuppressant drugs that compromise the body’s immune system.
A published report in Surgical Technology International cites the benefits of using autologous [the patient’s own] mesenchymal stem cells [MSCs] to effectively treat degenerative disc disease (DDD). The study also found that the use of stem cells to augment spinal fusion surgery demonstrated an efficacy that met the gold standard for iliac crest bone graft in posterolateral fusion models.
Harvard Stem Cell Institute scientists have a potential development to improve tumor treatments using oncolytic, cancer-killing, viruses. Khalid Shah and his team turned to mesenchymal stem cells [MSCs] to house the oncolytic viruses because they trigger a minimal immune response against the virus. The addition of a gel encompassing the MSCs keeps them alive longer to expedite the debulking, or removal, of the tumor. The investigators report that applying the gel-encapsulated MSCs to glioblastoma multiforme, the most common brain tumor in human adults, significantly improved survival in mice.