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.
A phase II clinical study investigating the efficacy of mesenchymal stem cells [MSCs] to treat moderate to severe lupus symptoms has been launched by the Lupus Foundation of America, in collaboration with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (part of the NIH). Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disorder in which the immune system can affect virtually any tissue in the body, including skin, joints and organs. MSCs represent a promising treatment option in that, in addition to the inherent plasticity of MSCs, they also possess immune modulation properties. The NIH is providing resources and oversight for the study, which will investigate how mesenchymal stem cells can effectively regulate and limit the autoimmune response of Lupus sufferers. Currently there are no effective options for their lupus symptoms other than steroid treatments, which have significant side effects, as they are detrimental to vital organ function.
In a breakthrough study, 3D printed organs have been vascularized to sustain the growing tissue and bring printed organs one step closer to fruition. Currently, hundreds of thousands of Americans are on waiting lists for life-saving organs, and 20 patients die waiting each day. This innovative research by Prellis Biologics is making headway to allow for more effective and efficient printing of organs. 3D printing has had to overcome 2 major obstacles: the development of a biological scaffold to allow for three dimensional growth of cells into the desired organs, and the oxygenation and nutrient delivery to the growing tissue for prolonged periods of printing time using blood vessels. Though a biological medium for 3D tissue growth has already been developed, Prellis has created a more effective an efficient method of vascularizing the growing organ tissue, as well as expediting the printing process as a whole.