You may have read recently that researchers were able to produce a lab grown hamburger patty. This process was possible because one of the unique characteristics of stem cells is the ability to regenerate and proliferate. To create the beef patty, scientists took muscle stem cells from a cow and cultured them to generate the billions of muscle cells needed to create the beef patty.
Dr. Ganesh Raveendran, MD, MS, Director, Cardiac Catheterization Laboratory at the University of Minnesota Medical Center is conducting a clinical study using autologous [the patient’s own] stem cells to treat patients requiring Left-Ventricular Assist Devices (LVADs). The clinical study hopes to create a viable alternative for patients that might otherwise require a complete heart transplant. According to Dr. Raveendran, “there are only 2,500 heart transplants done annually in this country [USA], whereas more than 100,000 patients are waiting to get heart transplants. So there is a gap between patients who need hearts and the number of patients who can get hearts.” The success of the treatment would eliminate the need for many heart transplants and provide a viable alternative to individuals awaiting a heart transplant [where there is a shortage of hearts].
Scientists at the University of Illinois have used a 3D-printer to create a bioresorbable airway splint that was used in a transplant to treat tracheobronchomalacia in a young boy whose prognosis prior to the transplant was fatal. Dr. Matthew Wheeler, a professor at the University of Illinois and a member of the Regenerative Biology and Tissue Engineering research team at the Institute for Genomic Biology hopes to add stem cells to the splint in order to accelerate healing.
Arthritis affects 44 million individuals in the US resulting in the need for approximately 700,000 knee-replacement and 100,000 hip replacement surgeries every year. Researchers at Stanford University have developed a technique to track the effectiveness of mesenchymal stem cells [the type of stem cells found in teeth] in repairing arthritic joints. Mesenchymal stem cells are capable of differentiating into bone and cartilage, as well as muscle, fat and tendon. The researchers expect to adapt the study for clinical trials in humans this fall.
Researchers at UMass Medical School use humanstem cells to ‘shut down’ the chromosomes causing Down syndrome. The lead researcher, Jeanne B. Lawrence, a professor of cell and developmental biology at UMass Medical School, explained, “Our hope is that for individuals living with Down syndrome, this proof-of-principal opens up multiple exciting new avenues for studying the disorder now, and brings into the realm of consideration research on the concept of ‘chromosome therapy’ in the future”. The treatment seeks to address the root cause of the disease as opposed to merely mitigating the symptoms of the disease.
Researchers at Duke University are studying the ‘support system’ surrounding stem cells that allow them to generate neurons. Dr. Chay Kuo, M.D., Ph.D., a George Brumley Jr. assistant professor of Cell Biology, Pediatrics and Neurobiology at Duke University, and senior author of the study explains, “Understanding the environmental control of neuron production in the adult brain will be crucial for future therapeutic strategies using human stem cells to replace neurons”.
In an early stage study recently carried out by the Institute of Kidney Diseases and Research Center (IKDRC), a treatment developed by the IKDRC utilizing Insulin Secreting Cells (ISC), derived from the patient’s own mesenchymal stem cells, shows that the need for insulin doses decreased by an average of 50% when the ISCs were implanted in patients.
Gene therapies utilizing stem cells are being developed that may lead to a cure for several genetic diseases. Currently, two clinical trials were announced to treat Cerebral Adrenoleukodystrophy (CCALD) and betathalassemia/sickle cell disease.