Researchers at University of Illinois Chicago are advancing 3D bio-printing by utilizing a gel to eliminate scaffold structures that model the shape of the organ or tissue being printed. The previous standard for 3D bio-printing involved creating a scaffold, typically from a biological polymer, and seeding it with stem cells that eventually differentiate and populate the structure to create the desired tissue. The challenge this technique poses is that the scaffold structure needs to be perfectly matched to the stem cells so that the scaffold degrades as the stem cells grow and differentiate into the desired structure. This new technique of 3D bio-printing by depositing the cells directly into a gel solves the problem of mismatched timing and should expedite and facilitate the printing of larger and more complex organs.
Researchers at the Wake Forest Institute have developed a gel that more precisely delivers therapeutic stem cell factors. A significant hurdle to successful stem cell therapies is the failure of stem cell injections to remain localized to the affected area. To address this problem, researchers designed a gel to be delivered to the affected area of the body to retain the therapeutic factors locally in order to maximize the efficacy of the treatments and provide a longer term solution.
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 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 Texas A&M University have created nanoparticles that could ameliorate and prolong the effects of stem cells on cartilage regeneration in osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis is an affliction that results from the degradation of the cartilage between joints, which serves to lubricate and prevent friction between bones. Symptoms often include joint swelling and pain, and decreased range of motion, which causes the areas around the joints to well and solidify. A treatment for osteoarthritis is vital since aging populations show an increasing prevalence of the affliction, and a stem cell treatment could contribute to longer healthspans.
Researchers at Keio University in Tokyo have developed a method to generate platelets negating the need to obtain them from donated blood. Typically, platelets come from blood donations and have an extremely short shelf-life of 5 days. Platelets are vital to a great number and variety of medical procedures as they are responsible for clotting and can prevent patients from bleeding out from serious injuries or during surgeries. Additionally, platelets are difficult to match from donor to patient and donated platelets run the risk of rejection by the recipient. Creating a patient’s own platelets from their own stem cells would negate the need for a donor and virtually eliminate any possibility of rejection. Generating patient specific platelets would also alleviate the shortages that are typical of the current platelet recovery environment.
Biotech company, Aleph Farms, has recently developed the world’s first lab-grown steak developed from stem cells. In the last few years, huge strides have been made in the development ofculturing methodologies that mayenableresearchers and farmers to grow meat without the environmental consequences of livestock farming[while also addressing the fear of consuming antibiotic-raised livestock]. Since stem cell grown burgerswerecreated nearly 5 years ago, researchers have been working diligently to improve their stem cell differentiation techniques. Culturinga steak involvesthe replicationof complex muscular structures. Hence, a lab grown steak represents a significant advancement in differentiation technology and know-how.
Mesenchymal stem cell (MSC) injections have been successfully utilized in a pre-clinical study to treat blood vessel constriction due to atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis is a disease that occurs when the walls of the arteries become hardened and narrow, due to the damage caused by high blood pressure, smoking and excess cholesterol. This causes further complications, since atherosclerosis is the most common cause of heart attacks, strokes and other arterial diseases. In this study, stem cells’ anti-inflammatory properties in an animal model helped decrease the accumulation of immune cells in the arteries that contribute to plaques. MSC injections have shown to decrease atherosclerotic plaques by 30-40%.
University of Pennsylvania researchers have utilized dental stem cells from baby teeth to restore injured teeth. The clinical trial involved the use of the patient’s own (autologous) stem cells to treat an injured permanent tooth. The stem cells were obtained from a healthy baby tooth [hence, posed no risk of rejection, since they were the patient’s own], expanded in the lab and implanted into the injured tooth. In follow-ups one year following the procedure, patients in the experimental group regained sensation in the previously injured tooth. The researchers also observed a significant regeneration of dentin, which is the hard part of the tooth, as well as vascularization in the pulp, which led to healthy root development and increased circulation.
Researchers at Georgia Tech are investigating the efficacy of a stem cell infused hydrogel to facilitate the healing of muscular injuries, particularly common in elderly individuals as well as muscular dystrophy patients. The stem cells found in the hydrogel are called muscle satellite cells, and younger individuals have plentiful stores of these cells to actively and efficiently repair muscle injuries as soon as they happen. However, as individuals age, stem cells become less plentiful and less active, hence, for older individuals, recovery from muscle injuries becomes more protracted and less certain. For individuals with muscular dystrophy, muscle cells are under constant stress. The research seeks to improve on the more common approach of injecting the stem cells directly into the site of damaged muscle, by using the hydrogel to protect the stem cells and ensure that as many of them as possible reach the affected site thereby improving the efficacy of the treatment.