Researchers at Cornell University are working on a stem cell-infused implant that could cure insulin deficiency for diabetics. Type I diabetes results from inadequate or malfunctioning insulin-producing beta cells in the islets of the pancreas, as well as an autoimmune response that attacks the body's insulin-producing cells. This treatment utilizes stem cells and directs them to differentiate into these cells. As opposed to daily insulin injections, the treatment is designed to provide a long-term solution that eliminates the need to constantly monitor blood sugar. It utilizes a naturally derived hydrogel to create a thread packed with stem cells induced to become pancreatic islets which is then implanted into the abdomen. Additionally, the treatment addresses what no other current treatment addresses: the body’s immune system attacking the insulin-producing cells. Encasing the cells protects them from the autoimmune response, increasing their efficacy and lifespan.
Researchers at the University of Southern California (USC) School of Medicine have pinpointed the biological processes that lead to the differentiation of skin stem cells into follicles that grow hair. As people age, the ability to regenerate skin cells declines and therefore, the follicles produce less and less hair. Utilizing a combination of bioinformatics and molecular screenings, the researchers studied the differentiation of stem cells into hair follicles of newborn mice, honing in on genetic factors and environmental cell signals this process entails. The process was then successfully implemented when applied to adult mice that lacked hair by introducing the necessary factors that signal stem cells to differentiate into organoids that will grow hair.
Researchers at the UNC School of Medicine and North Carolina State University have created a method of obtaining and culturing stem cells to treat chronic and potentially fatal lung inflammation. Chronic inflammation in the lungs causes the formation of scar tissue that inhibits proper oxygenation of vital organs, like the heart and brain. Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are some of the most common results of chronic inflammation. With many IPF patients not surviving past 5 years following diagnosis, this treatment could significantly prolong their lives. The treatment is done by isolating a patient’s own lung stem cells through biopsy, then culturing and expanding them to clinically relevant numbers. In an animal model, the subjects were induced to have scarring and inflammation in the lungs to mimic IPF in humans. Those that were injected with their own stem cells showed significant improvement in lung function compared to those that received a placebo.
Researchers at University of California San Francisco are utilizing stem cells to produce small, lab-grown organs that are helping identify the source of craniofacial birth defects. Children with these defects must endure a life of difficulties, including trouble breathing, seeing and speaking, due to the deformity of the face or head. However, with this advancement in research, UCSF’s team has been working on a drug that could treat the separation of mutated and normal cells, which is what typically leads to the deformities.
Dr. Farid Saleh at the Erhlich Animal Hospital and Arthritis Therapy Center in Tampa, Florida is utilizing innovative stem cell treatments to improve the lives of pets with degenerative disorders. Just like people, animals can suffer from ailments such as arthritis, and this leads to difficulty moving, which significantly decreases the animal’s quality of life. The Hospital’s application of stem cell treatments in animals could disseminate throughout the medical industry, making treatments more readily accessible to people, in addition to bettering the lives of everyone’s beloved pets.
Dr. Abba Zubair of the Mayo Clinic’s Florida campus, known for their research in regenerative medicine, is spearheading research on the effects of microgravity on stem cell growth. In previous studies, the weightlessness in microgravity was shown to promote fast and effective reproduction of stem cells. The ability to rapidly multiply stem cells would go a long way toward eliminating the deficit of available stem cells that could be used to treat the inflammation associated with strokes, and to promote neuron and blood vessel regeneration.
A $225m investment from pharmaceutical giant Bayer catapults BlueRock Therapeutics onto the stem cell therapy stage. BlueRock will initially focus on cardiovascular and neurological treatments. A team led by Dr. Michael Laflamme and Dr. Gordon Keller will concentrate on regenerating heart muscle for patients who have suffered a heart attack, whilst a team led by Dr. Lorenz Studer and Dr. Viviane Tabar will concentrate on restoring dopamine-producing cells in patients with Parkinson's disease .
Scientists at Rutgers and Stanford Universities, led by Prabhas V. Moghe, created a new stem cell-based technology that may treat Parkinson’s disease. Their technology utilizes a 3D scaffold containing a tiny polymer that, compared to 2D environments, allows for the growth of stem cells in all directions. This represents a significant innovation from current stem cell applications as it creates a more accurate representation of how the stem cells are configured in the brain. Facilitating communication between the brain and the transplanted stem cells resulted in a more effective transplant.
Scientists from the RIKEN Center for Developmental Biology in Japan have recently grown skin tissue from transformed stem cells. Their work demonstrated an advancement from previous efforts to grow skin in that the transplanted stem cells developed as integumentary tissue – the tissue between the outer and inner skin, which holds the functional properties of the skin, including sweat glands and hair follicles.
Dr. John Szivek, a researcher from the University of Arizona, is growing cartilage from stem cells. The process would utilize the patient’s own stem cells. The grown cartilage would be used to repair arthritic related damage, both small and large, and may one day eliminate the need to put plastics and/or metals in patient’s joints.