Researchers at Ben-Gurion University are using stem cells to study the effects of therapeutic drugs on the brain, as well as which drugs can pass through the notoriously selective blood-brain barrier. Though the barrier is there to protect the brain from harmful toxins that would otherwise enter brain cells, it is also extremely selective and poses a challenge for researchers to create pharmaceuticals that will actually reach the affected area of the brain.
Topics: neurological disorders
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.
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 are utilizing vesicles secreted from dental stem cells to treat Parkinson’s Disease (PD). The study utilized these vesicles secreted by stem cells, as they are small and can easily cross the blood-brain barrier to deliver a treatment to the parts of the brain affected by PD. Parkinson’s is a neuro-degenerative disorder that affects the part of the brain that produces a neurotransmitter called dopamine, with symptoms expressing themselves as tremors and limb rigidity, among others. This study demonstrated, in an animal model, that intranasal administration of dental stem cell vesicles had a therapeutic effect by regulating the expression of proteins and preventing dopaminergic neuron death. The results showed a decrease in PD tremors and showed no adverse neurological effects over the progression of the study.
Luis Suarez, a star of FC Barcelona, will undergo a stem cell treatment to alleviate pain in his knee and prevent further injury. Suarez has been dealing with intermittent spurs of pain, and a traumatic crash during a recent match exacerbated his injury and may have sidelined him for several weeks. However, Suarez’s stem cell treatment should have him back on the field in approximately 2-week's-time.
The treatment involves recovering the patient’s own stem cells (in this case mesenchymal stem cells - the same type of stem cells found in teeth), concentrating them and injecting them into the site of the injury to accelerate healing, decrease inflammation and eliminate the need for surgical intervention.
Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) have been found to be effective in accelerating healing time for diabetics. In patients with diabetes, high blood sugar levels negatively impact circulation and impair the immune system’s ability to fight off infections at the site of wounds. In an animal study, adipose derived MSCs, proved to be effective at decreasing inflammation and increasing circulation around wounds. Previous studies have utilized MSCs recovered from bone marrow. This study demonstrates the potential of MSCs, which can be derived from multiple sources, including teeth, to treat the millions of diabetics around the world who suffer from this debilitating affliction.
A stem cell graft to treat cartilage injuries has been approved by the FDA. Created by the biotechnology company Vericel, the procedure is called Matrix Associated Chondrocyte Implantation (MACI), and involves obtaining stem cells from the patient and culturing them in a lab. The cultured cells are then placed into a matrix to create layers of 3D tissue, which is then implanted back into the knee to repair the injured cartilage. This treatment is specifically targeted to younger patients [recall - younger stem cells are more plentiful and more active] who have experienced what is called a focal chondral defect, which is a lesion or hole in the cartilage due to an injury. This treatment is significant because these cartilage lesions often develop into osteoarthritis, with serious implications for the patient’s future quality of life. Hence, utilization of this FDA approved autologous stem cell treatment would not only address the physical distress of the condition but would also effectively mitigate the concerns and stress patients experience regarding future complications.
In a clinical study, researchers at Queen Mary University of London will utilize autologous stem cells to reboot the immune system of Crohn’s disease patients, with the aim of greatly alleviating the inflammation of the bowel thus significantly improving the patients’ quality of life. Crohn’s disease is an autoimmune disorder in which portions of the bowel are attacked by the immune system leading to severe inflammation, malnutrition and debilitating abdominal pain. Though there is currently no effective cure, this stem cell treatment has shown promise in treating the erroneous attacks of the immune system on the bowel tissues. The treatment involves a stimulation of the bone marrow to release stem cells, which are then harvested, followed by an irradiation of the body to eliminate the malfunctioning immune system. The recovered healthy immune stem cells are then reinfused into the body to reboot the immune system and eliminate the inflammation of the bowels.
Researchers at the University of Texas Medical Branch are using autologous (the patient’s own) stem cells to successfully transplant entire lungs without the risk of rejection. In animal models, researchers obtained a lung from a donor and removed all blood and cells, leaving a lung scaffold. Then, they obtained autologous lung stem cells from the subject and seeded the lung scaffold so that the lung would be repopulated. This created a brand new lung for transplantation, comprised of cells that would not be rejected because they are the patient’s own. When implanted back into the body, the engineered lungs were able to grow and vascularize with no additional treatments or infusions. This protocol could potentially be expanded to provide life-saving organs for hundreds of thousands of patients waiting for organ transplants, which, besides the obvious shortage, still pose a risk of immune rejection.