Researchers at the Harvard University’s Stem Cell Institute have engineered stem cells to become insulin producing cells, potentially providing an important source of pancreatic cells for the development of more effective treatment alternatives for millions of diabetics around the world. The technique increased insulin-producing cell yield from 30% to 80% by targeting the production of a specific protein utilized by insulin-producing beta cells. This enabled the researchers to concentrate the stem cells and yield more beta cells that can then be transplanted into diabetic individuals. Additionally, the concentration of cells should allow researchers to use smaller and less invasive devices to deliver the therapeutic cells in clinically relevant numbers.
The American Chemical Society (ACS) has published a study that uses 3D printing to create organ frames that can be populated with cells to resemble fully fledged organs. The researchers used a structural sugar called cellulose that plants, archaea and some bacteria use for structural support in their cells. This structural component is also used in making paper, and it is therefore easy to store for prolonged periods of time and inexpensive to produce. Additionally, since cellulose structures are easy to manipulate, the researchers were able to create channels resembling blood vessels, which they then populated with human epithelial cells that typically line blood vessels.
The Belgian biotechnology company Promethera has been successfully administering a mesenchymal stem cell [MSC] therapy to treat severe liver disease - Acute-on-Chronic Liver Failure [ACLF], which was previously only treated with organ transplants. The treatment called HepaStem utilizes mesenchymal stem cells cultured from livers which, when delivered to the patient intravenously, release support and anti-inflammatory factors for existing liver cells. The company, after conducting Phase I studies to determine the safety of the treatment, is conducting Phase II clinical trials to identify optimal dosage parameters and measure treatment efficacy.
Researchers in Tel Aviv have printed the first vascularized heart made from human stem cells. For the first time, researchers successfully printed heart tissue along with the blood vessels necessary for the heart to be operational. In a miniaturized version, the researchers also incorporated the chambers of the heart. The next step is scaling up the size of the printed heart to the size typically found in humans. Researchers believe a successful scaling up of the process would accelerate parallel efforts to bio-engineer organs in vitro and ameliorate the vast organ shortage, particularly with hearts.
Researchers at the University of Bristol, led by Dr. Adam Perriman, have hypothesized that using stem cells that are “welded together” may be the key to healing chronic wounds that often result from diabetes and other afflictions. The research involves using mesenchymal stem cells (the same type of stem cells found in teeth) and modifying their membranes so that the cells adhere to one another.
Researchers at UC Berkeley have been working on improving and scaling up and the printing of biomaterials with stem cells. They have developed a unique approach to ‘3D’ bioprinting by incorporating flash freezing into their process. They have improved on current techniques by printing layers of flat tissues [2D] and freezing them until they can be combined into a 3D structure. This technique was developed to overcome one of the major hurdles in scaling up 3D printing: the survival of the printed cells during the lengthy process of printing complex structures. By using 2D layers and flash freezing them before bringing them together to form a 3D organ or tissue structure, the new technique assures the survival of the cells throughout bigger, and more complex organs.
Researchers at North Carolina State University, led by Assoc. Prof. Rohan Shirwaiker, have created a method to “herd” stem cells into desired structures using a biological 3D printer to create specialized structures more easily, overcoming one of the major hurdles in biological 3D printing. While researchers rely on biological scaffolds to help the stem cells differentiate into a particular organ or tissue, this new technique gives the researchers more control in guiding the cells into the desired structure.
Researchers at the University of Granada Bio Health Institute in Spain are studying the application of mesenchymal stem cells from different sources, including dental pulp stem cells (DPSCs), to create more effective skin grafts for patients suffering from a variety of disfiguring afflictions. In addition to the DPSCs,bone marrow stem cells (BMSCs), adipose derived stem cells (ADSCs) and Wharton’s Jelly stem cells (WJSCs), were successfully differentiated into epithelial (skin) cells in vivo, that is - in an animal model. Additionally, DPSCs were demonstrated to be some of the most effective sources of cells for this particular type of treatment.
Researchers in China are working in collaboration with the University of Pennsylvania to improve on a previous protocol utilizing stem cells from baby teeth to restore damaged permanent teeth. After conducting a follow-up study on 30 new patients with damaged teeth, results confirmed the regeneration of pulp over the course of three years, demonstrating the safety and efficacy of the treatment.
Researchers at the American Chemical Society (ACS) have developed a biopolymer that would be implanted into an affected gum line to recruit stem cells and restore the damage caused by periodontal disease. With the Centers for Disease Control predicting that nearly half of all Americans will be affected by periodontal disease during their lifetimes, the new regenerative treatment technique would save healthy teeth, avoid prolonged and costly treatments and provide dentists with a more effective and less invasive treatment option for their patients.