A phase II clinical study investigating the efficacy of mesenchymal stem cells [MSCs] to treat moderate to severe lupus symptoms has been launched by the Lupus Foundation of America, in collaboration with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (part of the NIH). Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disorder in which the immune system can affect virtually any tissue in the body, including skin, joints and organs. MSCs represent a promising treatment option in that, in addition to the inherent plasticity of MSCs, they also possess immune modulation properties. The NIH is providing resources and oversight for the study, which will investigate how mesenchymal stem cells can effectively regulate and limit the autoimmune response of Lupus sufferers. Currently there are no effective options for their lupus symptoms other than steroid treatments, which have significant side effects, as they are detrimental to vital organ function.
In several clinical and animal studies, researchers are utilizing mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) to treat Type II Diabetes Mellitus (T2DM). Type 2 Diabetes affects approximately 415 million people worldwide, with diabetes mellitus (DM) further exacerbating diabetes’ adverse health effects. Symptoms of DM are caused by both a lack of insulin, as-well-as an intolerance to the scarce amount of insulin that is produced by the pancreatic islet cells. DM is typically a precursor to ischemic heart disease, stroke, blindness and chronic kidney disease with no effective treatments currently available to prevent these complications. With previous treatments using donated organs and insulin producing cells proving unsuccessful, MSCs are emerging as an extremely effective tool to restore normal function to the pancreatic islet cells and alleviate the other symptoms of DM. MSCs (the same type of stem cells that are found in teeth) not only normalize natural insulin levels, but also help ameliorate insulin resistance in the body’s tissues by creating a favorable microenvironment.
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.
Researchers at Adelaide University in Australia are conducting research into the application of dental pulp stem cells to treat neurological damage due to stroke. Cell based treatments for the detrimental effects of stroke could improve quality of life by promoting neural regeneration, neuroplasticity, vascularization and immuno-modulation. When an ischemic stroke occurs, a major artery in the brain becomes blocked due to a blood clot, and this deprives part of the brain of nutrients and oxygen. Depending on the length of the block, major parts of the brain can suffer neuronal death causing severe and permanent damage. This damage includes paralysis, vision problems, memory loss and language difficulties. Currently, there are no effective treatments for the effects of stroke, and because dental stem cells are derived from the neural crest during embryonic development, a dental stem cell based treatment shows promise in significantly improving the quality of life for stroke victims.
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.
Collaborating researchers from the University of California Davis Medical Center and the Second Xiangya Hospital of the Central-South University (Hunan, China) are developing an autologous [the patient’s own] stem cell protocol to aid the rehabilitation process following a hip fracture. With over 300,000 hip fractures in the US alone, and with many patients failing to return to an independent lifestyle following the fracture, the need for more effective rehabilitation methodologies is great; the mortality rate following a fracture is high as well. The team of researchers is focusing on the application of mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) to facilitate the healing process and get patients back on their feet. When tested in an animal model, autologous MSCs were engineered to express a growth factor called bFGF, which directs the differentiation of these stem cells into osteoblasts that will later become bone. When injected back into the subject with a hip fracture, this growth factor also successfully promoted vascularization around the fracture site and the ossification of the bone.
Researchers in India have used an autologous stem cell treatment in a pilot pre-clinical study to completely reverse the adverse effects of a quickly progressing case of MS (multiple sclerosis). MS is an autoimmune disorder in which the body attacks its own nervous system by breaking down the myelin sheath on neurons. Proper myelination is responsible for faster transmission of nerve signals and aggressive forms of MS cause patients to lose motor functions in their limbs, as well as experience memory and cognition problems. The patient in this study was experiencing a particularly degenerative form of MS, with multiple relapses over the years, and he began losing his ability to walk. After receiving an injection of his own mesenchymal stem cells (the same type of stem cells found in teeth), as well as a monitored diet and physical therapy, the patient experienced immediate improvement. He was soon able to walk and even run again, which he had been unable to do for over five years.
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.