Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) arise when a physical injury to the head triggers a devastating response that destroys the brain’s neurons and leads to a deprivation of nutrients and oxygen in certain parts of the brain. These injuries often occur during military service, in car accidents and other types of collisions involving trauma to the head. This response leads to extensive damage to a person’s motor skills, language and cognitive ability. The issue that arises with TBIs is that although the brain’s neurons are constantly making new synaptic connections among existing neurons, the neurons themselves do not regenerate, so there is currently no effective way to restore the brain function that is lost.
Topics: traumatic brain injury
Researchers have determined that an autologous mesenchymal stem cell treatment for progressive multiple sclerosis (MS) is safe and effective. Mesenchymal stem cells [the same type of stem cells found in teeth] have been shown to help support neurons that are damaged by the immune system in patients with MS. Researchers at Hadassah University in Israel have successfully completed a clinical trial that tested the application of patients’ own cells to help repair and support neurons affected by MS. The trial involved obtaining stem cells from patients, culturing and multiplying them in the lab, and infusing them back either intravenously or by direct injection into the spinal cord.
A research team at the Netherlands’ Utrecht University, in collaboration with the Swiss EMPA Research Institute, have developed a new 3D bio-printer that significantly decreases printing times, without harming or damaging the cells being printed. Conventional bioprinting takes hours, and even days for some complex structures, which creates the problem of maintaining the live cells in the structure that is printed over a prolonged period. The technique involves using a laser beam aimed at a printer that is depositing a light-sensitive hydrogel that contains stem cells. The laser can precisely target a structure within the gel and solidify it within seconds, without affecting the contained stem cells.
Topics: 3D printed organs
Researchers at the University of Plymouth Peninsula Dental School have discovered a new class of dental stem cells that could help regenerate teeth from within. The researchers studied rodents, who have constantly growing incisors and discovered a new class of mesenchymal stem cells, which use a genetic marker to communicate an injury and stimulate regeneration of the tooth. The gene in question was identified as Dlk1 and could offer insight into manipulating human dental pulp stem cells to regenerate teeth affected by decay and physical injury.
Researchers at University of California Irvine (UCI) have engineered mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) to locate metastases of cancer in bone and deliver targeted therapeutic factors that destroy the cancer but not the surrounding bone. The issue with conventional cancer treatments like chemotherapy is that although the treatment often successfully kill the cancer cells, they also severely damage the surrounding tissue, leading to a plethora of side effects. For this study, the researchers used MSCs that were genetically engineered to express surface proteins that are known to interact with cancer cells. Additionally, the stem cells expressed factors that prevent bone resorption, which would otherwise lead to bone loss following the cancer treatment.
Topics: stem cell cancer treatment
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.