Ophthalmologists James L Funderburgh, Ph.D. and Fatima Syed-Picard, Ph.D. from the University of Pittsburgh have devised a method for treating corneal blindness by utilizing dental pulp stem cells. The researchers harvested the stem cells from molars discarded during routine extraction and induced the cells to differentiate into keratocytes [corneal cells]. They then seeded the cells onto a nanofiber scaffold, allowing them to grow into fully developed, functional corneas capable of restoring eyesight.
Today, stem cells are rightfully perceived as the future of regenerative medicine, set to bring the marvels of science fiction into reality. But in looking ahead at all of the promise that stem cells hold for the future, it becomes easy to miss the scientific advances made to date for the millions of people around the world suffering from disease, trauma, and injury. Thus, today marks Stem Cell Awareness Day: a global celebration of stem cell research coordinated to highlight the treatments and therapies currently in development to create personalized regenerative therapies for patients.
A team of scientists from the Harvard Stem Cell Institute and the Boston Children’s Hospital have developed a method to increase the survival rate, and therefore the effectiveness, of transplanted mesenchymal stem cells [MSCs]. In an animal model, Dr. Juan Melero-Martin and his team of researchers co-transplanted MSCs with blood vessel-forming cells, enabling the stem cells to survive longer in a patient to reach their full regenerative potential.
Researchers from the University of Adelaide, led by Dr. Kylie Ellis, have discovered that dental pulp stem cells [DPSC] have the ability to differentiate into complex networks of cells closely resembling neurons found in the brain. According to Dr. Ellis, “Stem cells from teeth have great potential to grow into new brain or nerve cells, and this could potentially assist with treatments of brain disorders, such as stroke.” She goes on to say “ultimately, we want to be able to use a patient’s own stem cells for tailor-made brain therapy that doesn’t have the host rejection issues commonly associated with cell-based therapies. Another advantage is that dental pulp stem cell therapy may provide a treatment option available months or even years after the stroke has occurred.” Current drug treatment therapies for stroke victims must be administered almost immediately following the stroke – within hours. This severely limits their application as most stroke victims don’t have access to these treatments within that timeframe.
Mayo Clinic researchers from the Center of Regenerative Medicine have utilized a patient’s own stem cells in a novel treatment for heart disease. The treatment involves harvesting the patient’s own stem cells, expanding and differentiating them in-vitro [outside the body] and transplanting them back into the patient. As a result of the successful initial study, a wider clinical trial is planned.
Researchers at the University of South Florida have successfully used adult stem cells to repair traumatic brain damage in neurologically impaired mice. Prior to the study, hypotheses on how stem cells may provide treatment for neurological disorders were limited. However, the results of this experiment provide a new theory: stem cells replace dying cells while attracting other stem cells from uninjured regions of the brain to the damaged portions for continued neural cell replenishment. In the words of Principal Investigator Dr. Cesar Borlongan, "The transplanted stem cells serve as migratory cues for the brain's own neurogenic cells."
In an early stage study recently carried out by the Institute of Kidney Diseases and Research Center (IKDRC), a treatment developed by the IKDRC utilizing Insulin Secreting Cells (ISC), derived from the patient’s own mesenchymal stem cells, shows that the need for insulin doses decreased by an average of 50% when the ISCs were implanted in patients.
Utilizing dental pulp stem cells, researchers at Japan’s National Center for Geriatrics and Gerontology have developed a stem cell treatment for tooth decay by restoring a tooth’s structure and function. In the study, involving canine subjects, researchers utilized the dog’s own dental pulp stem cells to repair damaged and compromised teeth. Given the success of the study, researchers have initiated clinical [human] trials.
The Wall Street Journal recently reported on current research involving dental pulp stem cells [DPSC]. Researchers worldwide, including StemSave’s Chief Scientific Adviser, Dr. Jeremy Mao of Columbia University, are making advances in restoring tooth tissue and regenerating entire teeth using dental pulp stem cells. Current studies are in the animal model stage but researchers anticipate entering human clinical trials in the near future.
Cartilage injuries can range from small lesions, such as those of athletes, to chronic injuries, such as cartilage degradation. Cartilage injuries, which are difficult to repair and have limited options for surgery, and usually results in a drastic affect on quality of life of afflicted individuals. In addition, the health, number and vitality of cartilage cells diminish with age.