Category Archives: stem cells

Harvard stem cell study promises personalized treatments

Personalized Medicine

Personalized Medicine (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Scientists have for some time been able to reproduce pieces of human organs on chips. Now in a new study they’ve been able to use a patient’s stem cells to reproduce in the lab chunks of functioning tissue from a human being with a specific disease.

In this case, a team of experts from multiple disciplines “modeled the cardiovascular disease Barth syndrome, a rare X-linked cardiac disorder caused by mutation of a single gene called Tafazzin, or TAZ. The disorder, which is currently untreatable, primarily appears in boys, and is associated with a number of symptoms affecting heart and skeletal muscle function.”

The disease in this case results in very weak contractions of the heart muscle. The hope is that they may also eventually be able to model functioning tissue from patients with other diseases that produce other functional problems.

Why would they want to create functioning yet diseased human tissue outside a human being? The answer is that they can then experiment with and test all kinds of drugs and other treatments that they might not want to use directly on an actual living, breathing human being. In this scenario they were able to inject a genetic product that corrected the contractile problem right there in the lab.

While the article doesn’t say this, I’m thinking it could also mean in the long run fewer animals used for experimentation. And it could lead to shorter times before promising therapies can get to clinical trials.

A brave new world, indeed.

 

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Stem cells from fat used to regenerate bone

English: Fat Stem Cells

English: Fat Stem Cells (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Bone injuries and osteoporosis have long been the target of research for better treatments. Now a team of California researchers has discovered a way to use stem cells from fat tissue to regenerate bone.

The new approach overcomes some of the major obstacles of using regular mesenchymal stromal stem cells (MSC). MSCs require a two- to three-week period of culturing outside the body, which introduces greater possibility of infection and increases the risk of cancer cells developing before the stem cells can be used.

The new method of harvesting and purifying stem cells from adipose tissue produces what are known as perivascular stem cells (PSC). PSCs are localized around all the body’s veins and arteries and form part of the natural regenerative system. At the same time researchers identified a new growth factor NELL-1 that “potently amplifies the ability of PSC to form bone and vascular structures.”

Applications for the new method include treating bone loss due both to post-menopause in women and to aging in both men and women.

Can’t wait to see this get to clinical trial.

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Embryonic stem cells made from human skin

English: Embryonic Stem Cells. (A) shows hESCs...

English: Embryonic Stem Cells. (A) shows hESCs. (B) shows neurons derived from hESCs. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Scientists have come up with a new technique for using not just infant stem cells but also stem cells from older adults’ skin to develop treatments for many diseases. They pursued this angle because older adults’ DNA is more suitable to addressing conditions that tend to develop more frequently in older people such as diabetes, arthritis, and so on.

Good to see that the researchers have finally, after many years. found a way to create “embryonic” – meaning able to turn into any other type of human cells (plenipotent as opposed to multipotent) – stem cells without the controversial approach of taking them from discarded human embryos. Good news on all fronts.

This new approach could lead to building a genetic library of stem cells made from strong DNA. It could also be used to draw a patient’s own DNA to develop a patient-specific treatment, though this would be much more expensive than choosing from a library.

Imagine. Alleviating the pain, disability, disfigurement and suffering of diabetes. And arthritis.

For anyone facing the prospect of undergoing the current brutal approaches to joint replacement, according to research at Johns Hopkins,  the idea of using stem cells to grow new cartilage, which sounds like the proverbial miracle, may not be that far away.

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Heart cells’ unique communication opens new paths for heart failure research

English: Treatment Guidelines for Chronic Hear...

English: Treatment Guidelines for Chronic Heart Failure (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Research into how the heart communicates is yielding some fascinating insights. A recent study with mice has shown that the heart’s cells receive signals from the nervous system, but then the heart initiates its own way of passing on signals to other heart cells. The results could lead to novel ways to study the mechanisms of heart failure – where the system that speeds up and slows down the heart gets out of whack and results in the heart’s being unable to pump enough blood to the muscles.

What heart cells use to send messages to other heart cells is the neurotransmitter acetylcholine (ACh). The study used mice whose heart cells only had been engineered not to release ACh. Their heart rates remained normal at rest but went much higher than usual rates during exercise and their hearts took much longer to return to normal after exercise. “The results suggest the heart cell derived ACh may boost parasympathetic signaling to counterbalance sympathetic activity.”

The researcher thinks this heart-critical non-neuronal source of ACh might also play a role in other organs. This study was supported by the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Ontario, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the Canada Foundation for Innovation.

 

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