The Alzheimer’s Association has granted 3$ million to Longeveron, a biotechnology company focused on treating age-related diseases, to fund their Phase I clinical trial, which utilizes mesenchymal stem cells to treat the chronic inflammation that has been associated with the development of Alzheimer’s disease. Mesenchymal stem cells, known for their immunomodulatory and anti-inflammatory properties, are ideal candidates to treat areas of inflammation, as other studies have already successfully shown their efficacy in regulating this condition.
Topics: treating Alzheimer's
Researchers at Stanford University are advancing stem cell therapies by overcoming a major hurdle in the administration of blood related stem cell treatments. A major hurdle in addressing blood related disorders [such as Sickle Cell Anemia] is the difficulty in culturing hematopoietic stem cells into clinically relevant numbers in vitro [outside the body]. Researchers were able to overcome this hurdle by developing new culturing protocols that coax the stem cells to divide thousands of times to produce maximal yields. Prior to culturing the cells, the researchers used CRISPR to modify the DNA of the cells to eliminate a genetic disorder. Thus, combining both CRISPR and enhanced stem cell culturing enables the development of effective treatment options for a variety of genetic disorders utilizing the patient’s own stem cells.
Topics: stem cell therapies
Researchers are using mesenchymal stem cells [MSCs] in a clinical trial to treat the loss of function that nearly always results from traumatic brain injuries (TBIs). The trial focused on patients in the U.S. and Japan, who have traumatic brain injuries in the chronic stages. The researcher’s decision to use MSCs was predicated on their differentiation capabilities as well as their inherent anti-inflammatory properties. The MSCs in the trials are cultured to clinically significant numbers then implanted back into the affected areas of the brain, where they work to to restore damaged neurons in the brain, help regenerate blood vessels and reduce the inflammation that often occurs at the injury site.
Topics: traumatic brain injury treatment
A second patient has been cured of HIV following a stem cell transplant. It is estimated that nearly 40 million individuals are presently living with HIV around the world. Currently, the standard of care involves treating patients with anti-retroviral drugs, which keep the virus from spreading to healthy cells in the body. However, there have now been two case studies where patients received a stem cell transplant that completely eradicated the virus from the body. The stem cells came from donors with a mutation in the gene that the HIV virus normally uses to gain access to the body’s immune cells and destroy them. The mutation prevented the virus from penetrating the newly transplanted stem cells thus enabling the patients to re-established a healthy immune system.
Researchers at Duke University have utilized autologous (the patient’s own) stem cell infusions to promote increased connectivity in the brain that allowed for improved communication and language abilities in children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). The stem cells used in the trial were the patients’ own cord blood stem cells, which were banked at birth and played a key role in alleviating the symptoms of ASD in these patients. The Phase I Clinical Trial utilized the autologous stem cells in i.v. infusions that were meant to deliver the cells to the white matter, which is one of the brain tissues that differs developmentally between individuals with and without ASD. Additionally, the study targeted the neuroinflammation present in individuals with ASD.
Researchers at University of Minnesota are seeking to improve the functionality of prosthetics by introducing human tissue into the technology thereby creating ‘bionic prosthetics.’ Engineer Michael McAlpine has taken advantage of the regenerative properties stem cells and advances in 3D printing to create bionic prosthetics that are able to send and receive signals and impulses that more closely mimic natural body parts. Utilizing the technique, McAlpine has created a bionic ear that can detect and perceive sound, as well as a retina that has photodetectors translate light into electrical signals. Combining prosthetics, 3D printing and stem cells to more closely replicate the appearance and functionality of human tissues and body parts should significantly improve the quality of life of patients who currently have conventional prosthetics that do not resemble the form nor function of the lost limb.
Researchers are utilizing mesenchymal stem cell (MSC) infusions to help heal severe tissue damage following radiation treatments. Often, when patients receive treatment for cancer, the process involves painful and prolonged side effects from the chemotherapy and radiation, which significantly impacts the patients’ quality of life, even when in remission. MSC intravenous infusions demonstrated both healing properties and resulted in a reduction of pain and fistulization (the abnormal connections between organs due to injury and inflammation) following radiation. The patients receiving the treatment had sustained intestinal tissue damage following radiation treatments, and prior to the treatment all patients were experiencing pain, inflammation, fibrosis and hemorrhaging.
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.
Bone grafts help millions of people suffering from bone loss due to trauma or disease. Typically, traumatic bone injuries and bone loss due to disease have been mended with synthetic grafts or segments of bone taken from another area in the patient’s body. However, these treatments do not last long-term in growing bodies, and lack vasculature required for mature bone growth. In vitro tests at the New York Stem Cell Foundation Research Institute of a new technology called Segmental Additive Tissue Engineering (SATE) have demonstrated stem cell grown segments of bone creating large scale, personalized grafts. The SATE protocol seeds the patient’s own stem cells into a scaffold and directs the cells to develop into customized and vascularized bone segments, which pose virtually no risk of rejection, and are able to grow with the patient.
Researchers at Newcastle University are 3D printing corneas utilizing stem cells. The process involves mixing stem cells in a bio-gel which is derived from seaweed and collagen that allows these stem cells to be cultured and printed easily and efficiently into fully functioning corneas. The cornea plays an important role in focusing light that enters the eye. Technically, blindness caused by corneal damage is easily reversible with a corneal transplant. However, there is a vast shortage of donor corneas due to general organ and tissue donation shortages. In addition, there is also a significant risk of rejection - as is the case with any donated tissue.