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.
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.
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.
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.
Researchers at Hospital De San Jose in Colombia have utilized autologous (the patients’ own) stem cells to regenerate bone in children with cleft palates, greatly improving their quality of life by replacing an often arduous, surgically invasive procedure with a stem cell graft.The children partaking in the study were born with cleft palates, which typically require surgery and extensive grafting with bone from elsewhere in the body to create enough bone matter to support future teeth. When the children were born, their parents made the wise decision to bank their children’s powerful cord blood stem cells, which became vital to the success of this later treatment. This groundbreaking study used the patients’ own stem cells and a biological scaffold to allow the stem cells to grow into bone and fill the cleft. The ability to use autologous stem cells posed no risk of rejection to the patients, and in 5 and 10-year follow ups, the patients showed healthy bone development and experienced no adverse effects.
A team of researchers at the Hadassah Medical Center in Israel has developed a unique method of applying a patient’s own stem cells to restore mobility following progressive multiple sclerosis (MS). MS is an autoimmune disorder in which the body attacks its own neurons and affects millions of people worldwide. Severely progressive MS leads to complete loss of limb function, memory problems, seizures, and even systemic organ failure. This groundbreaking, double-blind, Phase II clinical trial successfully administered autologous (the patient’s own) mesenchymal stem cells, which were cultured and expanded to clinically significant numbers, and then applied directly into the spinal fluid. The treatment simultaneously addressed the two problems of MS - inflammatory immune response and the destruction of the outer coating of neurons that allows for quick signal transduction thereby engendering a significant increase in efficacy.
Researchers at the Technion-Israel Institute have directed stem cells to differentiate into neurons with the potential to repair spinal damage that causes paralysis in the legs, known as paraplegia. In an animal model, subjects suffering injury to their spinal cords, causing them to lose all mobility and feeling in their hind limbs, were treated with human stem cells cultured to differentiate into support factors that promote neural growth and survival. Three weeks after administering the stem cell treatment, 42% of the subjects began either walking or showing significant improvements in bearing weight on their hind legs. Furthermore, over 75% of the subjects responded to stimulation in their hind legs. When compared to the placebo group that received no stem cells, the results were impressive and demonstrate the immense potential of utilizing stem cells to restore the neural connections in the spine following a traumatic injury.
A collaborative effort from German and Italian researchers allowed a child dying from severe epidermolysis bullosa (EB) to lead a healthy, normal life. EB is a genetic disorder which causes the top layer of the skin (epidermis) to become extremely fragile and easily blister-prone. Patients with EB typically do not live past the age of 30, given the exorbitant risk of infections and other complications of having “paper thin” skin, and there is currently no cure. However, a recent experimental skin graft, made from the patient’s own stem cells, allowed a young boy to return to normalcy. The graft’s success comes from a technique of genetic engineering to correct the defective gene that causes EB in immature stem cells, and then develops those stem cells into layers of epithelial tissue and applies them to the patient’s affected areas. Though the risk of such procedures is high, using the patient’s own cells minimizes the risk of rejection and provides a safer alternative to merely enduring this disease.
A study at the University of Illinois found that stem cell injections can promote angiogenesis, or blood vessel generation, which improves the circulation problems associated with diabetes. The condition in question is peripheral artery disease or PAD, in which patients suffer from restricted blood flow caused by plaque on the walls of the arteries; most typically in the leg. This is due in part to poor circulation in diabetic patients which can cause moderate to severe pain during any movement of the leg. It can also lead to ulcers, sores and, in severe cases, gangrene, which can lead to amputation. In an animal model, stem cell injections were shown to improve blood flow and circulation in problematic areas. They also altered the gene expression of surrounding cells to reduce inflammation, which typically exacerbates the problem. PAD currently lacks effective treatments options and is difficult to diagnose until it has progressed severely hence, the study points to a potential breakthrough therapy that utilizes the patient’s own stem cells.
Researchers at Harvard Medical School have utilized stem cells to grow a functional small intestine in a lab. Using human stem cells, the researchers were able to differentiate them into intestinal cells and induced them to form a fully functional intestinal tissue. Previous studies have been successful at growing miniscule segments of the organ, but this innovative study has homed in on a method for compiling smaller, stem cell-derived tissue into an organoid that could soon be available to use in transplants as replacement for damaged organs. Patients who suffer from gastrointestinal tract ailments could benefit from this, in addition to patients who have had portions of their digestive tracts removed due to cancer.