The U.S. Department of Defense [DOD] has approved a grant of $2 million to the University of Arizona [UA] to advance the development of their technology combining 3D printing and stem cell grafting to create a better alternative to conventional bone replacement. Current standard of care for shattered bones involves using cadaver bones and support rods to replace bones entirely. However, these treatments are often ephemeral since the cadaver bone is dead and becomes increasingly fragile over time. The technique being developed by UA utilizes advanced 3D printing to create a scaffold that mimics the structure of bone and then seeds it with the patient’s own stem cells, along with calcium, to grow a bone that will be sturdier. Since the technique will use the patient’s own stem cells, it virtually eliminates the possibility of rejection.
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 stem cell graft to treat cartilage injuries has been approved by the FDA. Created by the biotechnology company Vericel, the procedure is called Matrix Associated Chondrocyte Implantation (MACI), and involves obtaining stem cells from the patient and culturing them in a lab. The cultured cells are then placed into a matrix to create layers of 3D tissue, which is then implanted back into the knee to repair the injured cartilage. This treatment is specifically targeted to younger patients [recall - younger stem cells are more plentiful and more active] who have experienced what is called a focal chondral defect, which is a lesion or hole in the cartilage due to an injury. This treatment is significant because these cartilage lesions often develop into osteoarthritis, with serious implications for the patient’s future quality of life. Hence, utilization of this FDA approved autologous stem cell treatment would not only address the physical distress of the condition but would also effectively mitigate the concerns and stress patients experience regarding future complications.
Researchers at the Salk Institute have developed a method to reprogram stem cells in skin ulcers and sores to differentiate into epithelial (skin) cells. The treatment advance has the potential to revolutionize treatment options for patients suffering from chronic skin conditions such as epidermolysis bullosa, ulcers and sores due to diabetes, bedsores and severe burns. Typically, there is an abundance of stem cells at the site of wounds such as ulcers. However, the stem cells prioritize dealing with inflammation and infection over the regeneration of skin tissue. The researchers sought to reprogram wound-resident mesenchymal stem cells in vivo [inside the body] by applying transduction factors, which directed the stem cells to generate skin tissue. Hence, the treatment is designed to generate new skin at the site of the wound as opposed to the current approach of utilizing a skin graft.
A Phase I clinical trial has been approved to assess the efficacy of a stem cell graft procedure that seeks to provide a more robust treatment option for the millions of individuals who suffer from cardiomyopathy. Cardiomyopathy is a disease which affects cardiac muscle, making it extremely difficult to for the heart to pump blood, straining and wearing down the cardiac muscles further. Prolonged cardiomyopathy can require surgical intervention, and in severe cases, a heart transplant. By implanting a thin membrane of collagen scaffold – seeded with the patient’s own stem cells, over the affected area, the stem cell graft changes the status quo on cardiomyopathy treatments by allowing the damaged heart muscle to mend itself. While current surgical treatments lack long-term efficacy in clinical applications, this novel approach was developed to specifically concentrate the stem cells to the site of the damaged tissue thereby increasing cellular repair and survival.
Bone grafts help millions of people suffering from bone loss due to trauma or disease. Typically, traumatic bone injuries and bone loss due to disease have been mended with synthetic grafts or segments of bone taken from another area in the patient’s body. However, these treatments do not last long-term in growing bodies, and lack vasculature required for mature bone growth. In vitro tests at the New York Stem Cell Foundation Research Institute of a new technology called Segmental Additive Tissue Engineering (SATE) have demonstrated stem cell grown segments of bone creating large scale, personalized grafts. The SATE protocol seeds the patient’s own stem cells into a scaffold and directs the cells to develop into customized and vascularized bone segments, which pose virtually no risk of rejection, and are able to grow with the patient.
The FDA has approved a novel synthetic scaffold that would allow stem cells to regrow bone more efficiently. The proprietary technology, Osteo-P [from Molecular Matrix Inc.], replaces the use of bone grafts and utilizes the patient’s own stem cells to regrow bone following trauma or injury. The Osteo-P, a scaffold made of carbohydrate [sugar] polymer, is an improved alternative to current bone grafting procedures in that it enables the body’s own stem cells to regenerate bone in aggregate, and it is resorbed by the body as it is replaced by the newly formed bone.