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.
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.
Researchers at Texas A&M University are utilizing stem cell injections into the brain to alleviate the most common and severe case of seizures of Temporal Lobe Epilepsy (TLE) in an animal model. The experimental treatment resulted in 70% of the subjects experiencing a reduction in the number of seizures with researchers expecting the number to climb as the research advances. Current treatment of TLE involves treatment with medication [to which 40% of patients do not respond] or, invasive surgery. To eliminate this type of epilepsy, some patients have their entire hippocampus removed, which can lead to disastrous side effects impacting the patient’s mood and memory.
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.
Luis Suarez, a star of FC Barcelona, will undergo a stem cell treatment to alleviate pain in his knee and prevent further injury. Suarez has been dealing with intermittent spurs of pain, and a traumatic crash during a recent match exacerbated his injury and may have sidelined him for several weeks. However, Suarez’s stem cell treatment should have him back on the field in approximately 2-week's-time.
The treatment involves recovering the patient’s own stem cells (in this case mesenchymal stem cells - the same type of stem cells found in teeth), concentrating them and injecting them into the site of the injury to accelerate healing, decrease inflammation and eliminate the need for surgical intervention.
Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania have developed bio-engineered replacement spinal discs. Intervertebral discs are located between the bones of the spine to absorb shock, prevent the bones from painfully rubbing together and protect the nerves of the spinal cord. Degraded discs cause intense chronic pain, which is often debilitating and diminishes a person’s quality of life. The current standard of care involves replacing a damaged disc with a synthetic replacement, which does alleviate some pain, but does not compare to real cartilage. In an animal model, autologous (the patient’s own) mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) were seeded into a biological scaffold where they differentiated into cartilage tissue. When the disc was fully-formed, it was surgically inserted back into the spine, and in a 20 week follow-up the disc maintained its structure and performed as normal.
BrainStorm Cell Therapuetics is currently launching a Phase II clinical trial utilizing mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) that are cultured to develop into neurological components able to treat progressive multiple sclerosis (MS). The proprietary technology called NurOwn uses a patient’s own (autologous) MSCs that are modified outside of the body and returned to repair and support neurons that are attacked in patients with MS. The stem cells are modified to produce growth factors, which support neurons and enhance differentiation and survival of neural cells.
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.
Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) have been found to be effective in accelerating healing time for diabetics. In patients with diabetes, high blood sugar levels negatively impact circulation and impair the immune system’s ability to fight off infections at the site of wounds. In an animal study, adipose derived MSCs, proved to be effective at decreasing inflammation and increasing circulation around wounds. Previous studies have utilized MSCs recovered from bone marrow. This study demonstrates the potential of MSCs, which can be derived from multiple sources, including teeth, to treat the millions of diabetics around the world who suffer from this debilitating affliction.
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.