A City of Hope researchers are utilizing stem cells to understand the genetic mutations that occur in astrocytes, a type of neuron, as well as damage to the myelin sheath, which is integral to the development of ALS and Alzheimer’s. Stem cells were used to create a model of Alexander disease, which is a neurological disorder similar to ALS and Alzheimer’s in its pathology, part of which involves a genetic mutation that hinders the production of an adequate myelin sheath, a fatty membrane that covers neurons and expedites signal transduction. Using this technique, the researchers homed in on the CHI3L protein, which seems to be primarily responsible for neuroinflammation and stunted neuronal development, including an inadequate myelin sheath.
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.
Researchers are developing stem cell therapies to restore neurons and repair optic nerve injuries, which cause severe visual impairment and eventual blindness. Currently, optic nerve injuries are untreatable, due to the neuronal death that renders the nerve non-functional following a traumatic injury. This study investigates how periodontal ligament stem cells [PDLSCs] can improve retinal ganglion cells’ (RGC) survival, responsible for the optic nerve’s function. In an animal model, three weeks after an injection of PDLSCs, researchers observed inflammatory responses indicative of increased RGC survival, as well as regeneration of nerve connections, with no adverse effects.
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.
Professor Paul Mozdziak and his team at North Carolina State University are growing turkey breast meat from stem cells. By manipulating stem cells into muscle fibers and cultivating them in a “warm broth” of amino acids and glucose, the cells are able to grow into turkey meat. The stem cells are activated to produce protein and fat cells, which add flavor and succulence to the meat, making it very similar to traditional meat.