Researchers at Columbia University are using scaffolds and stem cells to grow hair follicles in the lab for the first time. Currently, people suffering from hair loss have to resort to transplanting fully grown hair follicles from another area of the body in order to restore hair growth. Though this process has been refined over time, it still requires a painful extraction process and poses certain risks. The new method utilizes a 3D printed scaffold structure that mimics the micro environment of hair follicles, improving hair growth and maximizing the efficiency of the transplants. Additionally, researchers are using a new combination of growth factors that effectively stimulate hair growth by suppressing factors that keep hair follicles dormant and therefore lead to baldness.
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 University of Illinois Chicago are advancing 3D bio-printing by utilizing a gel to eliminate scaffold structures that model the shape of the organ or tissue being printed. The previous standard for 3D bio-printing involved creating a scaffold, typically from a biological polymer, and seeding it with stem cells that eventually differentiate and populate the structure to create the desired tissue. The challenge this technique poses is that the scaffold structure needs to be perfectly matched to the stem cells so that the scaffold degrades as the stem cells grow and differentiate into the desired structure. This new technique of 3D bio-printing by depositing the cells directly into a gel solves the problem of mismatched timing and should expedite and facilitate the printing of larger and more complex organs.
Researchers at Stanford University are advancing stem cell therapies by overcoming a major hurdle in the administration of blood related stem cell treatments. A major hurdle in addressing blood related disorders [such as Sickle Cell Anemia] is the difficulty in culturing hematopoietic stem cells into clinically relevant numbers in vitro [outside the body]. Researchers were able to overcome this hurdle by developing new culturing protocols that coax the stem cells to divide thousands of times to produce maximal yields. Prior to culturing the cells, the researchers used CRISPR to modify the DNA of the cells to eliminate a genetic disorder. Thus, combining both CRISPR and enhanced stem cell culturing enables the development of effective treatment options for a variety of genetic disorders utilizing the patient’s own stem cells.
Topics: stem cell therapies
Researchers, led by Dr. Bing Wang, Professor in the Department of General Surgery at Shanghai Ninth People's Hospital and Shanghai Jiao Tong University School of Medicine in Shanghai, China, are utilizing mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) to treat obesity and type II diabetes, two of the most significant healthcare concerns for adults worldwide. This study explored the use of MSCs (the same type of stem cells found in teeth) to treat the inflammation due to obesity that often causes or exacerbates the insulin resistance in type II diabetes. In an animal model, the stem cells were used to to restore metabolic balance and mitigate insulin resistance that arises when high blood glucose levels persist for extended periods of time. The stem cells, known for their anti-inflammatory properties, also expressed a growth factor called neuregulin 4, which is known to effectively combat the effects of obesity.
Researchers at Ben-Gurion University are using stem cells to study the effects of therapeutic drugs on the brain, as well as which drugs can pass through the notoriously selective blood-brain barrier. Though the barrier is there to protect the brain from harmful toxins that would otherwise enter brain cells, it is also extremely selective and poses a challenge for researchers to create pharmaceuticals that will actually reach the affected area of the brain.
Topics: neurological disorders
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 are working to improve 3D printing by overcoming hurdles that decrease printing efficiency, particularly with larger structures. A joint effort of several universities yielded a technique that improves the vascularization (formation of blood vessels) in printed tissues by utilizing food dye. The technique allows researchers to label and track where the blood vessels and other functional structures would be located in the organs, improving the survival of the printed structures thereby overcoming a major hurdle [survival] of 3D tissue printing. This is particularly important in organs like lungs, where different, overlapping vessels are required for the transport of blood and oxygen, with the dye helping to distinguish between them.
Researchers at the Wake Forest Institute have developed a gel that more precisely delivers therapeutic stem cell factors. A significant hurdle to successful stem cell therapies is the failure of stem cell injections to remain localized to the affected area. To address this problem, researchers designed a gel to be delivered to the affected area of the body to retain the therapeutic factors locally in order to maximize the efficacy of the treatments and provide a longer term solution.
Researchers are using mesenchymal stem cells [MSCs] in a clinical trial to treat the loss of function that nearly always results from traumatic brain injuries (TBIs). The trial focused on patients in the U.S. and Japan, who have traumatic brain injuries in the chronic stages. The researcher’s decision to use MSCs was predicated on their differentiation capabilities as well as their inherent anti-inflammatory properties. The MSCs in the trials are cultured to clinically significant numbers then implanted back into the affected areas of the brain, where they work to to restore damaged neurons in the brain, help regenerate blood vessels and reduce the inflammation that often occurs at the injury site.
Topics: traumatic brain injury treatment