“Kids will actually regrow a pretty good fingertip, after amputation, if you just leave it alone,” says Dr. Christopher Allan, from the University of Washington Medicine Hand Center. The ability of young kids to regrow the end of a digit following some form of trauma to the digit has researchers at New York University studying a similar phenomenon in mice with the hopes of finding clues to digit regeneration in humans. Researchers are focusing on the stem cells that reside in the area and how they interact with other biological elements to induce the regeneration.
Scientists at the University of California Davis’ Institute for Regenerative Cures are utilizing mesenchymal stem cells [the same type of stem cells found in teeth] to develop a new therapy that targets the genetic abnormality in Huntington’s disease. The principal investigator of the study, and the director of UC Davis stem cell program and the UC Davis Institute for Regenerative Cures, Jan Nolta said, “Our team has made a breakthrough that gives families affected by this disease hope that genetic therapy may one day become a reality.” The treatment seeks to address the root cause of the disease as opposed to merely mitigating the symptoms of the disease.
The Mayo Clinic, which has been involved in stem cell research and prospective therapies for two decades, reports that we are at the threshold of a medical revolution. By using the body’s own ability to repair and maintain itself, researchers will be able to treat and, in many cases cure, many of today’s most intractable medical conditions. As Dr. Brooks Edwards of the Mayo Clinic explains, “we’re not going to need to wait for a tragic accident and a young person to donate a heart or a liver or a kidney. We’re going to be regenerating those organs. So then if I’m on a transplant list … I’ll be using my cells or some kind of cell-based therapy to either strengthen my own heart, or regenerate my own heart, or even grow a new heart.” Dr. Edwards goes on to predict that solid organ transplants — say, a liver grown from a patient’s own cells — will take place within a decade.
Utilizing dental pulp stem cells, researchers at Japan’s National Center for Geriatrics and Gerontology have developed a stem cell treatment for tooth decay by restoring a tooth’s structure and function. In the study, involving canine subjects, researchers utilized the dog’s own dental pulp stem cells to repair damaged and compromised teeth. Given the success of the study, researchers have initiated clinical [human] trials.
Researchers from University of Nottingham in England had their 3D printing technology on display last week at the Royal Society’s annual Summer Science Exhibition. This technology is being used to create custom-fitted bone replacements and other body parts.
Recently, researchers utilized stem cells to successfully treat six children with rare genetic diseases. Three of the children were born with Metachromatic Leukodystrophy (MLD), a hereditary neurodegenerative disease. The other three children were born with Wiskott-Aldrich Syndrome (WAS), a hereditary immune system disorder.
The Wall Street Journal reported on the trend for Americans to live longer lives but to spend more years with a disability. According to Christopher Murray, director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington, Seattle “individuals in the United States are living longer, but not necessarily in good health.”
Researchers at the University of Toronto, led by Milica Radisic, Canada Research Chair in Functional Cardiovascular Tissue Engineering and Associate Professor at the Institute of Biomaterials & Biomedical Engineering (IBBME) and the Department of Chemical Engineering, have developed a multidisciplinary technique for maturing human heart cells. The new technique, referred to as “biowire,” enables scientists to differentiate stem cells into beating cardiomyocites in vitro [outside the body]. Researchers envision utilizing the technique to create cardiac patches for transplantation to replace damaged tissue for those suffering from heart failure. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States.
Researchers at Yokohama City University in Japan created tiny human livers utilizing human stem cells. The rudimentary livers [which were transplanted into mice] grew, made human liver proteins, and metabolized drugs as human livers do. And while the liver buds, as they are called, did not turn into complete livers, the study represents an important step in developing methodologies for growing large, complex organs.
Two patients in Boston have no sign of HIV after a stem cell transplant. This latest example of the expanding treatment options stem cells make possible represents the leading edge of the paradigm shift taking place in medicine as regenerative treatments move from bench to bedside.