Category Archives: stem cell research

New tool against MRSA – Stem cells in silver scaffolding

Image in the public domain and ...

Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus – MRSA, magnified 4780x

Osteomyelitis is a debilitating bone infection that can result when MRSA invades bone tissue following surgery. Now a team of scientists at University of Missouri led by Elizabeth Loboa, Dean of UM’s College of Engineering, has created silver-coated scaffolds that are seeded with fat-derived stem cells that can be triggered to create bone. The silver ions stave off MRSA while generating new bone.

Take a look at the video describing this revolutionary study here. More about this exciting discovery can be found at the University of Missouri website here.

Imagine: the end of antibiotics in sight. Here’s more from a brilliant TED talk on healing with a cell instead of a pill.

Stem cell mist heals burns dramatically faster

Diseases and conditions where stem cell treatm...

Diseases and conditions where stem cell treatment is promising or emerging. (See Wikipedia:Stem cell#Treatments). To discuss image, please see Template talk:Häggström diagrams (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The news is full of stories about stem cells performing near-miraculous healings – miraculous in that they take advantage of the body’s own powerful abilities to heal itself.  Now here’s another amazing development: technology for isolating and spraying a mist of one’s own stem cells onto burns – even second-degree burns – to heal them quickly and with little or no scarring.

A German company called RenovaCare (www.renovacareinc.com) has patented and is further developing its so-called CellMist™ and SkinGun™ technologies  The  company estimates the possible market for this technology at more than $45 billion, which includes a broad range of potential applications for conditions such as burns, chronic wounds, and skin disorders like vitiligo as well as for various cosmetic applications.
 Learn more about this unique biotechnology in this behind-the-scenes video of the technology and before-and-after images of a patient’s recovery. The stem cell good news just keeps coming.

Marker in cells mutated back to stem-cell-state may be able to predict cancer

English: Pathway of stem cell differentiation

English: Pathway of stem cell differentiation (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

News of a marker that may serve as a way to predict which cells will become cancer comes out of a recent study by researchers at Boston Children’s Hospital. Scientists were able to isolate a substance that appeared in a cell that had reverted to its stem-cell-state and then became cancerous in zebrafish that subsequently developed melanoma.

“The spark for that change was in the crestin gene, which should only be active in embryonic tissue but became inappropriately activated again, resulting in melanoma,” according to the article online at www.newvision.co.ug/. One of the authors of the study said “the beginning of cancer occurs after activation of an oncogene or loss of a tumor suppressor, and involves a change that takes a single cell back to a stem cell state.”

Now a fish is not a human being, so this information is a long way from having practical application in your doctor’s office. But the principle behind this discovery will guide further research and additional hoped-for developments.

Stem cells made to produce new neurons

English: Complete neuron cell diagram. Neurons...

English: Complete neuron cell diagram. Neurons (also known as neurones and nerve cells) are electrically excitable cells in the nervous system that process and transmit information. In vertebrate animals, neurons are the core components of the brain, spinal cord and peripheral nerves. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Our bodies are born with X number of neurons, which are the parts of the nervous system that carry chemical and electrical messages between the brain and other body parts. Up until now, no one has found neurons reproducing like regular cells do.

Now scientists have found a way to manipulate an RNA molecule called Pnky in such a way that neural stem cells will actually produce new neurons. It’s a complex process that takes a lot of explaining, so read more at BioScienceTechnology.com. And while you’re at it, read some clear layperson’s explanations about the many functions neurons perform in our bodies and brains on Psychology.About.com.

They’ve only done this in mice so far. But it’s clear this discovery constitutes a breakthrough in understanding a whole set of long, non-coding RNA molecules that researchers have heretofore assumed were just there–with no known function. One scientist called these the “dark matter” of the human genome, meaning there’s a lot more of this stuff than there is of the DNA we’ve already explored and named.

Another whole new world of knowledge is just beginning to crack open.

Stem cells help more than drugs to slow MS

A bone marrow harvest.

A bone marrow harvest. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A small study recently showed that multiple sclerosis patients who received injections of stem cells taken from their own bone marrow had 80% fewer areas of brain damage over the next few years than those who were given the usual immune-system-suppressing drug, mitoxantrone. Researchers feel the study indicates that stem cell treatment may actually re-set the immune system and thus may profoundly influence progress of the disease. Results of the limited study–only 21 patients–were published in a recent online issue of Neurology.

Considered the most common disabling neurologic disease of young people, MS afflicts approximately a quarter of a million Americans. The symptoms of MS result from recurrent attacks of inflammation in the central nervous system. The disease is typically characterized by progressive loss of motor control and often leads to paralysis and is considered incurable so far.

More demonstration of the incredible promise of stem cell treatments. Nature’ way.

A new way to guide stem cells to become what’s needed

One of the toughest challenges to meeting the many exciting goals scientists have set is getting stem cells to grow into precisely the types of cells needed for the particular illness or condition. Now a researcher has discovered a way to do just that and is waiting for a patent to be granted.

This Rutgers professor Ki-Bum Lee and colleagues at Rutgers and Kyoto University in Japan have invented a platform they call NanoScript. It represents a breakthrough  in the area of gene expression. The way genes express themselves encodes information in a gene specifically to direct how a protein molecule gets assembled. That process is integral to developing tissue through stem cell therapeutics. Stem cells divide and replenish other cells, serving as an almost unlimited internal repair system.

Anything we can do to speed human knowledge along this extraordinary and exciting pathway to better healing and health is very welcome. Let’s hope – as often happens when a patent is involved – they don’t charge too much of an arm and a leg to get to the end-products.

Stem cells made from human cells used for eye surgery

A scheme of the generation of induced pluripotent stern (iPS) cells. (1)Isolate and culture donor cells. (2)Transfect stern cell-associated genes into the cells by viral vectors. Red cells indicate the cells expressing the exogenous genes. (3)Harvest and culture the cells according to ES cell culture, using mitotically inactivated feeder cells (lightgray). (4)A small subset of the transfected cells become iPS cells and generate ES-like colonies. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A 70-year-old Japanese woman with a debilitating eye disease (macular degeneration) has just received the first implant of stem cells created from her own cells. Called induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs), these can become any type of cell in the body, obviating the moral debate about embryonic stem cells and promising to help the body just as effectively to regenerate tissue – without fear of rejection.

This pilot study that will be done with six patients and include regular monitoring for a year after each procedure. Safety testing for rejection and possible tumor formation was conducted with mice and monkeys before the human pilot.

At last, a decisive step in breaking the stem cell research field wide open.

 

 

Stem cells repair older muscle, gene changes cells to restore heart rate

Mouse embryonic stem cells. More lab photos

Mouse embryonic stem cells. More lab photos (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Can’t keep up with all the exciting research going on with stem cells and gene therapy. I imagine many of the researchers might feel a little like a kid who just discovered clay – and found you can do almost anything with it.

First up is a project in which researchers identified why older creatures can take so long to recover from muscle injuries. They found that muscle stem cells in mice were not dividing and renewing themselves the way younger stem cells do.

So they found a way to reinvigorate the murine stem cells by blocking a substance known as p38 MAP kinase that appears to be critical in slowing stem cell division. The growing medium, soft hydrogel, is critical to the newly invigorated cells maintaining their “stemness.” They then injected the revunated stem cells into damaged muscles of elderly (two years old – about the same as 80 in humans) mice and found the muscles began substantially repairing themselves.

Next up, pigs who were suffering from heart block (their heart rate was too slow) were injected with a human gene into a tiny area of the pumping heart that allowed researchers to reprogram “heart muscle cells into a type of cell that emits electrical impulses to drive the beating heart.” The pigs’ heart rates were restored to normal for two weeks.

The hope is that these “biological pacemaker” cells will one day replace the devices we now insert into bodies that must have batteries replaced every 8 to 10 years. Read more about pacemaker gene therapy here.

 

Stem cells help heart attack & heart failure

English: Human bone marrow.

English: Human bone marrow. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Imagine a substance your doctor could inject directly into your heart soon after you have a heart attack that will prevent and/or repair some of the damage that heart attacks usually involve? AND thus possibly prevent you from  developing heart failure as a result of the attack?

Yep. They’ve done it in a recent study with 40 patients in Japan – half got a protein drip called G-CSF and the rest a saline solution (placebo).

…researchers from the Gunma Prefectural Cardiovascular Center in Maebashi, Japan, have found that a protein called G-CSF—when injected into the hearts of patients who recently suffered an attack—can actually spur a type of bone marrow stem cells to migrate to the heart and curb the spread of cellular death that normally takes place.

Clinical trials are in the works to confirm these dramatic preliminary promises.

Baby teeth – new source for stem cells

Tooth-Care

Tooth-Care (Photo credit: Lutz-R. Frank)

Researchers have recently found they can create stem cells taken non-invasively from tissues found in teeth. “These stem cells can be isolated and grown under defined tissue culture conditions, and are potential cells for use in tissue engineering, including, dental tissue, nerves and bone regeneration.”

This press release mentions a concern that people might start yanking their kids’ teeth out for money. I guess you have to mention the weird fears when you put out information about a new discovery. But happily, no scary dental visit is needed. The manufacturer rushes to point out that its method will preserve a baby tooth that fell out all by itself for up to 5 days. That gives you plenty of time to get it to a lab while the blood-flowing parts are still operating.

Bravo! Scientists continue to discover new ways to use nature’s own approaches to healing. What a great time to be alive.

And I’m going to bet the tooth fairy may have to up her game a bit on this one…