Researchers at Seoul National University Hospital are using stem cells to reconstruct segments of the esophagus due to birth defects or damage following treatments for cancer. The current standard of care has several drawbacks, since it involves taking a portion of a patient’s small intestine to reconstruct the esophagus when all, or part, of it is removed. In an animal model researchers 3D printed a two-layered scaffold using nanofibers in the shape of an actual esophagus, then seeded the scaffold with mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs). The technique enables researchers to cater the shape to the exact specifications for the form and function of the esophagus, including the placement of the thyroid gland flap.
Topics: stem cell cancer treatment
Researchers at Leiden University are using 3D printed kidneys to understand the complexities and causes of differing forms of kidney disease affecting over 850 million individuals worldwide. One of the greatest challenges of kidney disease is that it often goes untreated due to a lack of initially observable symptoms. The researchers are utilizing the printed kidney tissue, complete with blood vessels and filtering systems of actual kidneys, to model and understand kidney disease, as well as test possible treatments prior to clinical trials. The ability to study organ pathology outside the body will enable researchers to perform extensive testing to understand the root causes of a disease from a cellular level.The ability to test treatments on living kidney tissue prior to clinical trials will limit adverse effects and expedite the approval of more effective treatments.
Topics: stem cell organs
Researchers at Imperial College London have created a stem cell patch that pulses like normal heart muscle and is used to make repairs following heart attacks. Heart attacks occur when a blockage due to a clot in a blood vessel restricts blood flow to the heart, and this causes damage to the cardiac muscle, since it is without oxygen for a prolonged period of time. These patches are revolutionary in that they can pulse and contract as heart muscle constantly does. The patch is said to not only support damaged muscles but also help the heart pump more efficiently. This is essential since the muscle damage that occurs as a result of heart attacks often leads to heart failure.
Researchers at the University of Edinburgh have made a major breakthrough in the development of a treatment for Parkinson’s disease. Clinical trials are currently underway that utilize stem cells to treat Parkinson’s by injecting healthy stem cells directly into the brain. However, there is one major hurdle: the healthy injected cells can become diseased from the nearby cells exhibiting Parkinson’s symptoms. In lab tests, the researchers used CRISPR to splice the DNA of the stem cells to eradicate the gene that causes the toxic clumps of cells in the brain, which contribute to the neuronal degeneration. The edited stem cells also successfully produced dopamine, which is significantly lacking in Parkinson’s patients.
Researchers at Rutgers University have created a bio-degradable scaffold that could overcome the biggest hurdle in stem cell treatments, which is cell survival and delivery. In order for a treatment to be effective, the stem cells must reach the designated site and remain there while they work. "Our enhanced stem cell transplantation approach is an innovative potential solution," comments Professor Ki Bum Lee, senior author of the study.
The University of Illinois at Chicago has received a $5.25 million grant from the Department of Defense [DoD] to develop clinical trials using stem cells to treat eye injuries and expedite healing. The treatments utilize mesenchymal stem cells (the same type of stem cells found in teeth) due to their anti-inflammatory and immunomodulatory properties, which can help heal scarring and preserve eyesight. The treatments are targeted for combat veterans injured due to explosions and chemical burns to the eye, but could also be used to treat chronic corneal injuries in other patients.
Doctors at the New Jersey Institute of Technology have developed a stem cell hydrogel designed to keep teeth alive following a root canal. This revolutionary, biological hydrogel is said to stimulate angiogenesis, which is the growth of blood vessels, and this key factor could help teeth remain both alive and more fortified, compared to a traditional root canal treatment. When patients require root canals, the decay inside the pulpal chamber and canals is cleared and replaced with gutta percha. This eliminates the infection, but also renders the tooth dead typically leading to the loss of the tooth entirely later on. The hydrogel, seeded with dental pulp stem cells and working in conjunction with the hydrogel’s promotion of angiogenesis, has the potential to repopulate the tooth with living, functioning dental pulp and restoring function to the tooth.
Organs-on-Chips are set to be studied in zero gravity at the International Space Station. Astronauts who go into space have been known to experience changes in their health and immune response, but until recently, the reasons for these changes remained largely unknown. Previously, animals were sent as a way to determine the long-term health effects of being in space. However, since every organism functions differently, this approach, while useful, had obvious drawbacks. Organs-on-Chips [OOCs] are an innovation created by a collaborative effort of the Wyss Institute of Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, among others. OOCs are small vessels that utilize stem cells to create various tissue types to simulate the conditions inside human organs. If the tests prove successful, these tiny chips will be the closest researchers get to estimating the effects of space travel on human organ function - aside from sending out actual astronauts.
Researchers at USC [University of Southern California] have utilized stem cells to track neuronal growth and identify specific genes that appear to be responsible for the development of schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and depression. The study linked the DISC1 gene to the development of schizophrenia, which currently does not have effective treatments and causes disproportionate disability compared to other neurological disorders. Like many neurological disorders, the source of schizophrenia has been ambiguous and this research, with the use of stem cells, is helping to navigate this disorder. Through the utilization of stem cells, the study determined how genes like DISC1 function in the body, and their downstream impact on protein function and neurotransmitter production by tracking the gene expression.
“Clean meat” company Future Meat Technologies anticipate they can bring the price of lab-grown, “meatless” meat down to approximately $8 per kg [$4 per pound]. The process involves obtaining mesenchymal stem cells from the animal and differentiating the stem cells into both muscle and fat tissues, which are indistinguishable from those found in standard meat. The meat cooks, tastes and smells exactly like anything you’d get from an animal- however, the biggest hurdle has been its high price. Future Meat Technologies looks to overcome this hurdle by bringing costs down, by differentiating stem cells more efficiently and scaling up production.