Researchers at Harvard University School of Engineering and Applied Sciences are utilizing stem cells and nano-electronics to study cell differentiation and disease models outside the body. The researchers are utilizing the latest advances in organ 3D printing and combining these organs with tiny sensors in culture in order to better understand human cells and tissues and gain invaluable insight, without having to worry about finding patients with specific, rare disorders. The researchers found a way to create a network of interconnected sensors and seed this structure with stem cells to have an organ develop around the sensors and be constantly monitored and observed from the cellular level. This is something that cannot be done with actual human organs, and full-sized sensors are often too large to fit into strategic places in organ tissues.
Topics: stem cell organs
Researchers at the Bristol School of Cellular and Molecular Medicine are using anchor proteins to guide and keep stem cells in an affected area of the heart to maximize the efficiency of regenerative treatments. The researchers analyzed a protein called adhesin, which is known to locate and attach itself to heart tissue, and they used this property to help attract stem cells to the heart to repair damaged muscle that results from a heart attack or heart disease. The researchers used the adhesin model and created a protein that was on the surface of stem cells and helped guide them directly to heart tissue.
Topics: heart repair
The National Multiple Sclerosis Society is contributing over 1 million dollars to a Phase II clinical trial that utilizes autologous (the patient’s own) mesenchymal stem cells to treat Multiple Sclerosis (MS). Mesenchymal stem cells were selected for this treatment based on their ability to differentiate into neural progenitor cells, which can serve to repair the damaged neurons that result from MS. The cells are recovered from the patient, then expanded and cultured to differentiate into neural cells in clinically significant numbers.
Researchers at Stanford University and the University of Illinois at Chicago are utilizing factors secreted from stem cells to repair severe corneal damage and scarring, which causes severe side effects, including blindness. This study utilizes a novel approach that delivers the treatment directly to the site of the injury compared to conventional treatments. Typically, corneal damage is treated with lubricating drops, steroids and patching the injury site, but this novel treatment approach seeks to treat the symptoms of the injury and repair the scar tissue completely. The treatment involves using repair factors secreted by mesenchymal stem cells, along with a biological gel made of hyaluronic acid and chondroitin sulfate which promote the regeneration of the cornea membrane.
Phase III Clinical Trials to treat ALS were announced by Brainstorm Therapeutics utilizing their successful NurOwn stem cell technology to treat amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). The company has received a $16 million grant from the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine [CIRM] to conduct the trial. The technology utilizes the patient’s own mesenchymal stem cells, which are differentiated to secrete neurotrophic factors that support the damaged neurons and aid the survival of other neurons. The stem cells are then injected directly into the muscle or spinal canal in order to deliver the cells directly to the areas most affected by ALS.
A case study utilizing a patient’s own stem cells to treat rheumatoid arthritis demonstrated a drastic decrease in joint pain and inflammation. Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) occurs when the immune system incorrectly attacks the body’s tissues, eventually leading to joint deformities, bone erosion and intense pain due to the breakdown of the lining of the joint. Typical treatments for RA involve anti-inflammatory medications, or surgery to repair the joints. However, both types of treatments involve severe side effects and are not guaranteed to work. The stem cell treatment sighted in the case study holds the potential to radically upend current practices and create a new standard of care for this widespread disorder.
12 years ago, Dr. Anthony Atala, a leading stem cell specialist at Boston Children’s Hospital, created a lab-grown bladder from a patient’s own stem cells. The procedure involved obtaining a sample from the patient’s bladder, and culturing the stem cells to grow into a full-sized, functional bladder. 12 years following the procedure, the patient is thriving and has experienced no long-term adverse effects from the regenerated bladder. Since then, the differentiation protocols utilized to grow the bladder have been successfully adapted to grow other functioning tissues like skin, cartilage and urethras, which is indicative of the paradigm shift stem cells represent in treating organ deficiencies.
A Phase I clinical trial has been approved to assess the efficacy of a stem cell graft procedure that seeks to provide a more robust treatment option for the millions of individuals who suffer from cardiomyopathy. Cardiomyopathy is a disease which affects cardiac muscle, making it extremely difficult to for the heart to pump blood, straining and wearing down the cardiac muscles further. Prolonged cardiomyopathy can require surgical intervention, and in severe cases, a heart transplant. By implanting a thin membrane of collagen scaffold – seeded with the patient’s own stem cells, over the affected area, the stem cell graft changes the status quo on cardiomyopathy treatments by allowing the damaged heart muscle to mend itself. While current surgical treatments lack long-term efficacy in clinical applications, this novel approach was developed to specifically concentrate the stem cells to the site of the damaged tissue thereby increasing cellular repair and survival.
Researchers at the Salk Institute are developing an autologous stem cell cure to treat hemophilia, a genetic disorder affecting millions worldwide. Hemophilia is a disorder in which a person’s blood has a diminished ability to clot, posing the risk of severe bleeding from minor injuries like nosebleeds. Additionally, people with hemophilia are at an even greater risk for internal bleeding, which can arise from minor injuries. Hemophilia is typically inherited but can also be acquired in adulthood. The genetic disorder is caused by an inappropriate immune response where immune cells attack the blood’s clotting factors, or a mutation that prevents the production of the clotting factor altogether. This treatment involves obtaining autologous (the patient’s own) stem cells, editing them to correct the faulty gene with the help of CRISPR (a gene editing technology), and reintroducing the cells back into the body.
Researchers at the University of Chile have found that mesenchymal stem cell (MSC) injections could treat a genetic predisposition for excessive alcohol consumption. In an animal model, rats that were bred to consume high volumes of alcohol received intracranial MSC injections, which are meant to treat the neuroinflammation exhibited in individuals who chronically abuse alcohol [and drugs]. The study revealed that following the injections, voluntary alcohol intake decreased dramatically. These are promising results for the many people suffering from a predisposition to alcoholism. Additionally, the study addressed the significant hurdle of devising an effective method of delivery for the stem cells. While intracranial injections ensure the most concentrated delivery of stem cells, it is not ideal. Intravenous delivery also proves difficult given the highly selective blood-brain barrier. The researchers addressed both issues by effectively reducing cell size by growing MSCs in a spheroid aggregate and then administering them intravenously. This enabled the MSCs to be delivered to the brain effectively and efficiently, reducing the alcohol intake by 90% in as little as 48 hours.