The Belgian biotechnology company Promethera has been successfully administering a mesenchymal stem cell [MSC] therapy to treat severe liver disease - Acute-on-Chronic Liver Failure [ACLF], which was previously only treated with organ transplants. The treatment called HepaStem utilizes mesenchymal stem cells cultured from livers which, when delivered to the patient intravenously, release support and anti-inflammatory factors for existing liver cells. The company, after conducting Phase I studies to determine the safety of the treatment, is conducting Phase II clinical trials to identify optimal dosage parameters and measure treatment efficacy.
A Phase II clinical trial is currently underway to evaluate the efficacy of retinal progenitor cells in treating a retinitis pigmentosa that causes visual impairment and, in severe cases, blindness. In an earlier clinical trial, the stem cells were used to create new photo receptors, with patients reporting improvements in vision. In follow-ups conducted between 18 days and 2 months following treatment, patients were able to read three additional lines in a standard eye test chart.
Researchers at Texas A&M University have created nanoparticles that could ameliorate and prolong the effects of stem cells on cartilage regeneration in osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis is an affliction that results from the degradation of the cartilage between joints, which serves to lubricate and prevent friction between bones. Symptoms often include joint swelling and pain, and decreased range of motion, which causes the areas around the joints to well and solidify. A treatment for osteoarthritis is vital since aging populations show an increasing prevalence of the affliction, and a stem cell treatment could contribute to longer healthspans.
Researchers are utilizing vesicles secreted from dental stem cells to treat Parkinson’s Disease (PD). The study utilized these vesicles secreted by stem cells, as they are small and can easily cross the blood-brain barrier to deliver a treatment to the parts of the brain affected by PD. Parkinson’s is a neuro-degenerative disorder that affects the part of the brain that produces a neurotransmitter called dopamine, with symptoms expressing themselves as tremors and limb rigidity, among others. This study demonstrated, in an animal model, that intranasal administration of dental stem cell vesicles had a therapeutic effect by regulating the expression of proteins and preventing dopaminergic neuron death. The results showed a decrease in PD tremors and showed no adverse neurological effects over the progression of the study.
Researchers at University of California San Francisco (UCSF) have created insulin producing cells in vitro that successfully produced insulin in vivo for Type I Diabetes patients. Type I diabetics experience an autoimmune disorder which attacks and destroys the body’s insulin-producing beta cells. These patients have to take continuous insulin injections and closely and constantly monitor their blood sugar levels, since extremely high or low blood sugar levels cause diabetic ketoacidosis or hyperglycemic shock, leading to coma and death. Though diabetes is currently manageable, patients must be constantly vigilant since their bodies’ inability to regulate blood sugar often leads to other systemic diseases such as blood vessel damage, neuropathy and nephropathy, just to name a few. The study from USCF involved directing human pancreatic stem cells to become insulin-producing islets cells in the lab. In an animal model, the cells were then implanted back into the body and were shown to produce insulin in response to blood sugar spikes. Additionally, the islets produced other essential hormones for blood sugar regulation, fully resembling normal pancreatic islets.
In a Phase II clinical trial, researchers are using autologous (the patients’ own) mesenchymal stem cells to treat Alzheimer’s disease. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) 5.7 million Americans are currently suffering from Alzheimer’s [with approximately 5.5 million over the age of 65 and approximately 220k under 65 experiencing early onset Alzheimer’s] with the number expected to triple by 2060. Additionally, the disease is one of the top 10 leading causes of death in U.S. adults; and while incidents of other common ailments like heart disease and cancer are decreasing, Alzheimer’s is on the rise.
Researchers at Duke University have utilized autologous (the patient’s own) stem cell infusions to promote increased connectivity in the brain that allowed for improved communication and language abilities in children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). The stem cells used in the trial were the patients’ own cord blood stem cells, which were banked at birth and played a key role in alleviating the symptoms of ASD in these patients. The Phase I Clinical Trial utilized the autologous stem cells in i.v. infusions that were meant to deliver the cells to the white matter, which is one of the brain tissues that differs developmentally between individuals with and without ASD. Additionally, the study targeted the neuroinflammation present in individuals with ASD.
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.
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.
Doctors at the New Jersey Institute of Technology have developed a stem cell hydrogel designed to keep teeth alive following a root canal. This revolutionary, biological hydrogel is said to stimulate angiogenesis, which is the growth of blood vessels, and this key factor could help teeth remain both alive and more fortified, compared to a traditional root canal treatment. When patients require root canals, the decay inside the pulpal chamber and canals is cleared and replaced with gutta percha. This eliminates the infection, but also renders the tooth dead typically leading to the loss of the tooth entirely later on. The hydrogel, seeded with dental pulp stem cells and working in conjunction with the hydrogel’s promotion of angiogenesis, has the potential to repopulate the tooth with living, functioning dental pulp and restoring function to the tooth.