Scientists and engineers at the University of Toronto in Canada have made a breakthrough in stem cell transplantation as their engineers recently concocted self-proclaimed “hydrogels,” which actually increase the pace of healing in both the eye as well as the brain.
The researchers, composed of scientists and engineers, successfully employed a gel-like biomaterial which keeps cells alive while helping them integrate into tissue. The team of researchers announced that the method yielded promising results in two early laboratory trials, as it’s already exhibited the ability to partially reverse blindness and help the brain recover from a stroke.
The Toronto team managed to encase stem cells in a hydrogel which boosted healing abilities when transplanted into both the eye as well as the brain; research which is part of an ongoing effort to develop new therapies to repair nerve damage caused by disease or injury.
Professor Molly Shoichet at the Toronto University’s Donnelly Center for Cellular and Biomolecular Research was quoted in a report on the university’s website as having said that “the hydrogels do more than just hold stem cells together; they directly promote stem cell survival and integration.”
This study goes one step further, showing that the hydrogels do more than just hold stem cells together; they directly promote stem cell survival and integration. This brings stem-cell based therapy closer to reality
Shoichet led the research team along with Professor Derek van der Kooy and Professor Cindi Morshead.
Stem cells hold great therapeutic promise due to their ability to turn into any cell type in the body, but not only that, they can also generate replacement tissues as well as organs. While scientists are adept at growing stem cells in a lab dish, once the cells are on their own – transplanted into a desired spot in the body – they have trouble thriving. The new environment is complex and poorly understood — as a result, implanted stem cells often die or fail to properly integrate into the surrounding tissue.
The researchers also shows that these new cells could help restore function lost due to damage or disease; this in addition to offering insight into how the stem cells benefit from life in hydrogels.
In a related development, scientists have been awarded a $15.7-million four-year research to translate their approach to manipulate hematopoietic stem cells in order to cure acquired and inherited blood disorders.
The New York State Stem Cell Science Program (NYSTEM) awarded the multi-million dollar grant to the scientists and transplant clinicians at the Ansary Stem Cell Institute at Weill Cornell Medical College and the Center for Cell Engineering at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center to conduct two clinical trials which aim to expand hematopoietic stem cells, according to a report on Phys.Org.
The first trial utilizes the vascular niche to expand umbilical cord blood stem cells for transplantation in patients with blood cancers who cannot be cured by chemotherapy or donors. The second trial aims to correct the genetic abnormality in blood stem cells in patients afflicted with sickle cell anemia by returning the healthy, functioning stem cells to patients. If successful, the techniques may provide safer, more broadly available stem cell transplants for thousands of patients.
For many patients with such blood diseases, including sickle cell, the only hope for a cure requires the transplanting of normal blood stem cells. But in many instances, suitable blood stem cells cannot be found or there are too few cells for transplantation. The consortium of scientists involved seeks to expand the production of stem cells outside of the body by using specialized blood vessel cells – known as a “vascular niche” – to nurture the stem cells.
Dr. Shahin Rafii, director of the Ansary Stem Cell Institute and a Weill Cornell professor of medicine, genetic medicine and reproductive medicine, was quoted by Phys.Org as having said that “this innovative approach marries Weill Cornell Medical College’s stem cell expansion capabilities with Memorial Sloan Kettering’s robust cell engineering and gene-transfer techniques.”
The scientists expect the vascular niche platform to generate large numbers of blood-forming stem cells from patients, enabling the genetic modification of their stem cells and avoiding the risks of transplanting cells from another person. These two trials will require the manufacturing of clinical grade human blood vessels, or endothelial cells, for intravenous infusions in the clinical trials.
Dr. Michel Sadelain, principal investigator at Memorial Sloan Kettering (MSK) was also quoted in the aforementioned Phys.Org report as having said, “The expansion of blood-forming stem cells is a critical advance for the successful implementation of a number of genetic therapies based on gene addition or gene correction.”
In other genetic engineering coverage here at Immortal News, a joint research effort between U.S. and Chinese researchers has yielded the discovery of a gene which could hold the key to unlocking immortality.