Phase III clinical trials for a stem cell based ALS treatment has been initiated. ALS, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, is a disorder in which motor neurons in the body rapidly degenerate, and the treatment aims to prolong the survival rate of afflicted individuals by using autologous [the patient’s own] mesenchymal stem cells (the same stem cells found in teeth), which can be differentiated into fully-functioning neurons. The trials, to be conducted by BrainStorm Therapeutics, exploits the company’s proprietary technology [NurOwn], which utilizes mesenchymal stem cells. BrainStorm obtains these cells from the patient, expanding and differentiating the stem cells prior to application. The stem cells begin producing neurotrophic factors that facilitate neuronal growth and regeneration.
Artist and researcher Amy Karle is collaborating with researchers at the California Academy of Science and Autodesk to develop a method to 3D print a human arm using stem cells. Karle created a 3D printed scaffold and a culture medium that will direct the stem cells to grow into the structure of the bones in the arm. Her methods could be essential for future limb transplants, which could be grown in a lab rather than obtained from a donor.
Researchers at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center Heart Institute have discovered a possible method of directing stem cells to fuse together and form functional skeletal muscle. Utilizing gene therapy, their research has provided insight into correcting disorders like muscular dystrophy, and congenital and metabolic myopathy. By identifying the genes Gm 7325 and Tmem8c, as well as their corresponding proteins, researchers have determined their paired role in directing muscle stem cells (myoblasts) in fusing and creating functional striated muscle tissue, which is responsible for movement.
Researchers at the Mayo Clinic are researching stem cell treatments for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), the onset of which remains unknown and the cure for which has yet to be discovered. For patients with ALS, motor neurons in the brain, which are in charge of basic muscle movement, are destroyed, causing paralysis or severe lack of muscle control. The phase I clinical study is investigating the use of mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs), known for their ability to support neural growth and survival, to prevent the premature neuron degradation normally associated with ALS, and/or their ability to slow the progression of the disease.
Researchers in Japan have made headway in bringing tooth regeneration to clinical trials. This major breakthrough involved utilizing both epithelial and dental stem cells to create tooth buds that were then implanted into the jaw bone. The ‘tooth buds’ grew into fully functional adult teeth in the span of 5 months. In this animal model, the researchers first used a biological scaffold and seeded the epithelial and dental stem cells to create a tooth bud, which acts like a seed for a new tooth to grow. This is similar to the tooth buds that children have below their deciduous teeth (baby teeth). The study showed that the regenerated tooth maintained both biological form and function, including a response to orthodontic force that caused the biological implanted tooth to move in the same way a normal tooth would.
Wan-Ju Li and Tsung-Lin Tsai, researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, have developed a more efficient method to regrow large masses of bone. Using the proteins lipocalin-2 and prolactin, the researchers were able to slow and neutralize senescence, a naturally occurring process that negatively impacts the ability of stem cells to divide and grow, thereby preserving the regenerative capabilities of the mesenchymal stem cells and facilitating bone growth. The combination of these two proteins in culture provides sustenance for the stem cells to remain in prime condition until they are ready to be implanted into the patient.
A team of researchers at the University of Glasgow are utilizing 3D printers to create bone scaffolds that, when coated with a growth substance and stem cells, will continue to grow into bone in the implanted body. The aim of utilizing synthetically grown bone replacements is to create a readily available technology that can be used around the world, especially in places abundant with landmines. This is an important breakthrough for landmine blast survivors whose only option is usually amputation.
Neurobiologists are utilizing dental stem cells from the pulp of baby teeth to study Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Dental stem cells are very plastic stem cells [they can be differentiated into many types of tissue] derived from the neural crest during early embryonic development.
Rachel Okolicsanyi, a scientist from the Genomics Research Centre at QUT’s Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation, is manipulating mesenchymal stem cells [MSCs] to produce neural cells which can be used to treat brain damage. By introducing different chemicals to specific proteins found in stem cells, researchers can determine which chemicals facilitate, or prohibit, their potential to differentiate into neural cells. This advancement in the understanding of how stem cells can be directed will accelerate the development of treatments for brain damage, specifically from strokes and trauma.
Researchers at the U.K’s University of Bristol’s School of Cellular and Molecular Medicine announced a new advancement in bio-printing. They developed a bio-ink that is comprised of stem cells and two polymers – one naturally occurring and the other artificial. The polymers provide structural support to the stem cells that can then be directed to differentiate into the appropriate tissue. The addition of the phase-change polymer component to the bio-ink allows the printed organ to quickly develop the structural integrity necessary to introduce cell nutrients to the stem cells.