Researchers from Megakaryon of Japan are using stem cells to derive platelet cells, which are regularly in short supply due to a lack of blood donations. Platelet cells assist in clotting and help stop bleeding in surgery and trauma patients. However, because these cells are derived from blood, not only does a shortage exist, but their shelf-life is a mere 4 days, as they cannot be frozen and stored. The protocol involves the expanding and differentiating stem cells into platelet cells. These manufactured cells have a shelf-life of up to 2 weeks and can be administered to patients in need. The new method has the potential to eliminate the need for blood donations.
Researchers at the UNC School of Medicine and North Carolina State University have created a method of obtaining and culturing stem cells to treat chronic and potentially fatal lung inflammation. Chronic inflammation in the lungs causes the formation of scar tissue that inhibits proper oxygenation of vital organs, like the heart and brain. Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are some of the most common results of chronic inflammation. With many IPF patients not surviving past 5 years following diagnosis, this treatment could significantly prolong their lives. The treatment is done by isolating a patient’s own lung stem cells through biopsy, then culturing and expanding them to clinically relevant numbers. In an animal model, the subjects were induced to have scarring and inflammation in the lungs to mimic IPF in humans. Those that were injected with their own stem cells showed significant improvement in lung function compared to those that received a placebo.
A fourteen-year-old cancer patient has gone into full remission after partaking in the clinical trial of a stem cell therapy conducted at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. The recently approved FDA treatment, also known as chimeric antigen receptor T-cell [CAR T cell] therapy, works by obtaining autologous (the patient’s own) immune stem cells, genetically altering and expanding them to recognize a specific molecule on the surface of cancer cells and become targeted cancer killers. In this case, it was used to treat acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL) originating in the B cells.
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.
Researchers at University of California San Francisco are utilizing stem cells to produce small, lab-grown organs that are helping identify the source of craniofacial birth defects. Children with these defects must endure a life of difficulties, including trouble breathing, seeing and speaking, due to the deformity of the face or head. However, with this advancement in research, UCSF’s team has been working on a drug that could treat the separation of mutated and normal cells, which is what typically leads to the deformities.
The Texas legislature has just passed House Bill 810, allowing chronically or terminally ill patients access to adult stem cell treatments that are currently in clinical trials but are not yet approved by the FDA. Hence, potentially successful treatments may now be accessed by patients who have exhausted all other measures of treatment, but whose time will have run out by the time these treatments receive approval.
Dr. Farid Saleh at the Erhlich Animal Hospital and Arthritis Therapy Center in Tampa, Florida is utilizing innovative stem cell treatments to improve the lives of pets with degenerative disorders. Just like people, animals can suffer from ailments such as arthritis, and this leads to difficulty moving, which significantly decreases the animal’s quality of life. The Hospital’s application of stem cell treatments in animals could disseminate throughout the medical industry, making treatments more readily accessible to people, in addition to bettering the lives of everyone’s beloved pets.
Researchers at UCLA, in a step toward clinical trials, have sent subjects to space to test an osteoporosis drug under development. In the latest trial, mice that are administered the drug have been sent to the international space station, where loss of bone mass is exacerbated due to lack of gravity. The drug, NELL-1, has the ability to direct stem cells to become osteoblasts (bone-building cells), making bone restoration more prolific, as well as slowing the loss of bone mass due to age. This drug has the potential to help people with significant bone trauma, such as astronauts, who are subject to loss of bone mass due to prolonged exposure to microgravity, members of the military who experience injury, and individuals experiencing bone loss due to age.
Researchers at the University of Maryland Medical Center are developing a stem cell treatment that can be utilized to treat hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLHS) in children. By taking a new approach to make the right side of the heart stronger instead of replacing the damaged left side, researchers hope to engender a more permanent fix. The procedure would represent a significant advancement over current HLHS treatments; which include heart transplants and reconstructive procedures that only provide temporary relief.
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.