Many medical experts have long believed that neural stem cells (NSCs) have great potential for treating neurological diseases. However, the problem is that just a small number of NSCs can be transplanted into the brain, yielding relatively low levels of new cell growth and, thus, a limited effect. “We wanted to investigate whether using a specific population of neural cells would help increase the number of mature brain cells that the stem cell graft yields,” Dr. Wolfe explained.
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“Cell transplantation strategies therefore typically introduce a stress challenge at the time of transplantation as the cells are switched from 20 percent to 3 percent oxygen, which is the average in adult organs,” she added.
In fact, the dysfunction and death of RPE is thought to be behind the leading cause of blindness in the Western world — age related macular degeneration.
Transplantation of RPE cells into the retina to treat AMD has been demonstrated in animals and is now being tested in clinical trials in humans. However, protocols to generate RPE from human pluripotent stem cells are time consuming and relatively inefficient. But a team of scientists at the University of California, Santa Barbara, reports in the latest issue of STEM CELLS Translational Medicine that it has found a way to isolate RPE cells as early as 14 days following the onset of differentiation.
People who have RA overproduce a protein called tumor necrosis factor (TNF), which causes the inflammation and damage to the bones, cartilage and tissue. Anti-TNF drugs can block the action of the protein and reduce inflammation. Etanercept® (marketed under the trade name Enbrel) is a type of anti-TNF drug called a biologic that for years has been prescribed to treat RA. However, it can’t be targeted specifically to the site of the arthritis and, thus, requires higher doses that can cause serious side effects including fatal infections, multiple sclerosis, seizures, heart failure, cancer and more.
“As a result, there has been significant interest in developing RPE culture systems both to study AMD disease mechanisms and to provide substrate for possible cell-based therapies. Because of their indefinite self-renewal, human pluripotent stem cells (hPSCs) have the potential to provide an unlimited supply of RPE-like cells,” noted Donald Zack, M.D., Ph.D., who with Julien Maruotti, Ph.D., led the team of researchers from the Wilmer Institute, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, Md., and the Institute of Vision in Paris in conducting the study.
ALS (commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease) is characterized by the degeneration and death of the body’s motor neurons, leading to muscle atrophy, paralysis and death due to failure of the respiratory muscles. Despite studies that have improved our understanding of how ALS develops, there are no effective treatments. However, stem cell based-therapies have emerged as a potential solution.
“NK cells show promise for cancer therapy,” said Dan Kaufman, M.D., Ph.D., of the Stem Cell Institute, University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. “They are part of the innate immune system and exhibit potent antitumor activity without the need for donor matching and prior treatment.
“Moreover, the derivation of NK cells from pluripotent stem cells could provide an unlimited source of lymphocytes for ‘off-the-shelf’ therapy.”
Dr. Kaufman was the lead investigator on the study that included colleagues from UM as well as from the Integrated Center of Cellular Therapy and Regenerative Medicine, St. Anne's University Hospital Brno, Brno, Czech Republic; and the University of Texas, Houston.
Interestingly, the regenerated bone is also hard, rather than the spongy kind normally found in the jaw.
The new study is a follow-up to previous investigations by an international team of researchers in which they discovered that mesenchymal stem cells taken from dental pulp and seeded on a collagen scaffold successfully repaired the mandible bone. In this latest work, they checked on patients who had received the mandible bone grafts three years earlier to assess the stability and quality of the regenerated bone and vessel network.
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), or Lou Gehrig’s Disease, is a rapidly deteriorating neurological condition affecting five out of every 100,000 people worldwide, mainly after the age of 50. The average survival time is only three years.
While no effective treatment exists, preliminary studies suggest that the quality of life and even life expectancy itself could be improved in patients who receive stem cell infusions. However, questions remain about the capacity of these cells to “take hold” and turn into neurons.
Kidney transplants have long been the treatment of choice for many patients with end-stage renal disease, and the short-term results are excellent. But unfortunately, the viability of these kidneys over time has not improved accordingly, often due to fibrosis, which is a scarring of the transplanted organ generally caused by the immune system rejecting it.
The LUMC team, led by Marlies E.J. Reinders, M.D, Ph.D., and Ton J. Rabelink, M.D., Ph.D., decided to test whether stem cells might keep fibrosis in check. They focused on mesenchymal stromal cells, a type of stem cell found throughout the body, including in bone marrow.