Magnetically-guided delivery of therapeutic stem cells into the brain

A minimally invasive method holds promise for the treatment of neurological disorders and injury. 


by Sue Min Liu 

Iron oxide nanoparticles are incorporated into stem cells to create Cellbots

Korean researchers have devised a way to remotely direct stem cells to specific areas of the brain to promote neural tissue regeneration. They loaded iron oxide nanoparticles into the cells, which are then guided to the target site by an external magnetic source.

The research team, co-led by Professor Hongsoo Choi and Professor Sung Won Kim, report in Advanced Healthcare Materials that incorporating nanoparticles did not interfere with the viability or function of these stem cells, including their ability to differentiate into neurons.

Named Cellbots, the nanoparticle-containing stem cells were created using human stem cells harvested from the folds of tissue inside the nose — nasal turbinates — that are usually discarded after surgical procedures to alleviate nasal obstructions.

“Considering the frequency of this type of surgery, sufficient amounts of stem cells could be obtained for clinical trials. Characteristics of stem cells derived from nasal turbinate — including proliferative and differentiation potential, and immunophenotype — are not affected by passage number or the donor’s age, whereas other types of stem cells can be,” said Choi.

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In new study, stem cells self-organize into a mini model of a beating heart

A collection of cardioids


By
 Shraddha Chakradhar  

Researchers have worked for years to create organoids — miniature cellular structures that recapitulate features of larger organs — for nearly every organ in the body, in the hope that these tissue samples can serve as models in which to study everything from how diseases develop to which drugs could potentially work to combat a host of conditions.

In a new study published Thursday in Cell (and previously posted to the preprint server bioRxiv), researchers describe a new mini model of the heart, one they call a cardioid. In a departure from other efforts to recreate heart muscles and function in a dish, this latest attempt did not use external scaffolding around which heart cells organized themselves.

Instead, scientists relied on self-organization, in which stem cells that usually precede the creation of heart muscle were coaxed into becoming heart cells, also known as cardiomyocytes, with the help of six known signaling pathways. 

To the scientists’ surprise, not only did this approach yield heart cells, but the cells organized themselves into a three-dimensional structure, complete with a single chamber reminiscent of a human heart (although a real one has four chambers) and a heartbeat that showed liquid being pumped around the chamber. The proof of concept came when the team injured these structures to mimic a heart attack: Cells tasked with repair migrated to the site of the injury to rebuild damaged tissue, much like what happens with full-fledged hearts. 

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3D biomaterial used as ‘sponge’ for stem cell therapy to reverse arthritis

A new biomaterial scaffold, designed to slowly release stem cells, has worked to ensure implanted stem cells can stick around to relieve pain and reverse arthritis in mice knee joints.

This treatment reduces the quantity of stem cells needed by 90%, thus avoiding the problems of redness, swelling and scar tissue that can arise from large doses of such stem cells. In the near future, it could potentially lead to reversal of osteoarthritis in humans for the first time.

At present, no treatment is currently available that can reverse the course of osteoarthritis, and the sole options are to try to relieve pain. Stem cell therapy potentially offers hope and has been shown to alienate the disease. However, a ‘goldilocks’ dose of stem cells remains out of reach. Too much of a dose and the subject suffers redness, swelling and scar tissue. Too little and the therapy is only successful for a limited period due to gradual cell loss.

To overcome this challenge, researchers from the Department of Orthopedics at Huazhong University of Science and Technology, China, seeded umbilical cord mesenchymal stem cells on a ‘cryogel’ biomaterial.

Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) are adult stem cells that can differentiate themselves into other types of cells. MSCs are sourced from bone marrow, fat, or umbilical cord tissue. Umbilical cord-derived MSCs (UCMSCs) have emerged in recent years as popular therapeutic transplant cells due to their abundant supply, high proliferative capacity, and non-invasive harvesting procedure, and because they pose relatively minor ethical issues.

Cryogels, meanwhile, are gel matrices formed at sub-zero temperatures. They have interconnected macropores (pores larger than 10 micrometres in diameter), much like a sponge. Because these holes can allow mass transport of small particles in them, cryogel biomaterials potentially have a range of biomedical uses. 

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PATIENT’S OWN STEM CELLS MAY REPAIR SPINAL CORD INJURY

“The idea that we may be able to restore function after injury to the brain and spinal cord using the patient’s own stem cells has intrigued us for years,” says Stephen G. Waxman. “Now we have a hint, in humans, that it may be possible.”

Intravenous injection of bone marrow derived stem cells in patients with spinal cord injuries led to significant improvement in motor functions, according to anew study.

For more than half of the patients, researchers observed substantial improvements in key functions—such as ability to walk, or to use their hands—within weeks of stem cell injection with no reported side effects.

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Research dispels fears human stem cells contain cancer-causing mutations

by University of Exeter

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Pioneering new research has made a pivotal breakthrough that dispel concerns that human stem cells could contain cancer-causing mutations.

A team of scientists from the University of Exeter’s flagship Living Systems Institute has shown that stem cells contain no cancer mutations when they are grown in their most primitive or naïve state.

The ground-breaking advances made by the research team should help allay fears surrounding recent controversy about the genetic stability of human embryonic stem cells.

The study is published in leading peer review journal Cell Stem Cell on Monday, December 14th 2020.

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Regenerative drug summons stem cells for inflammation-free healing

By Michael Irving

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Neural stem cells maturing into brain cells in miceSanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute

Researchers have developed a drug that can mimic inflammation signals to lure stem cells to damaged tissue, without causing any further inflammation. The technique could be a boon for regenerative medicine to treat neurological disorders.

Inflammation is the body’s natural response to injury and damage, swelling up to allow better blood flow to the area. It also acts like a “fire alarm” to attract the attention of the immune system to help the healing process, and stem cells are some of the most important responders.

In theory, inflammation could be used to lure these regenerative stem cells to injuries, but of course there are risks. Chronic inflammation underlies conditions like arthritismultiple sclerosis and Crohn’s disease, and has even been linked to cardiovascular diseasesAlzheimer’s and depression.

So for the new study, the researchers investigated ways to summon stem cells using inflammation signals without creating further inflammation. The team modified an inflammatory molecule called CXCL12, which had previously been identified as a stem cell attractor. They found that it contains two “pockets” – one that binds to stem cells and one for inflammatory signaling – so they developed a drug that maximizes the binding but minimizes the signaling.

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Artificial ‘mini-lungs’ grown in a lab allow scientists to watch how the coronavirus infects human cells in ‘major breakthrough’

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Tiny artificial lungs grown in a lab from adult stem cells have allowed scientists to watch how coronavirus infects the lungs in a new ‘major breakthrough’.

Researchers from Duke University and Cambridge University produced artificial lungs in two independent and separate studies to examine the spread of Covid-19.

  • Researchers took stem cells and had them grow into cells found in the lungs
  • They then had them produce 3D models of the lung cells Covid-19 infects
  • They can use their new models to track the spread of the deadly virus in lungs
  • It’s hoped doing so will allow them to develop new drugs to help treat the virus

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Scientists discover protective Alzheimer’s gene and develop rapid drug-testing platform

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PET scan of a human brain with Alzheimer’s disease.

A gene has been discovered that can naturally suppress the signs of Alzheimer’s Disease in human brain cells, in research led by Queen Mary University of London. The scientists have also developed a new rapid drug-screening system for treatments that could potentially delay or prevent the disease.

The main challenge in testing Alzheimer’s drugs in clinical trials is that participants need to have symptoms. But once people have symptoms, it is usually too late for treatments to have a significant effect, as many brain cells have already died.

The only current way to test potential preventative treatments is by identifying participants who are at higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s and seeing if treatments prevent the onset of their disease. This includes people with Down’s syndrome (DS) who have around a 70 per cent chance of developing Alzheimer’s during their lifetime. This is because the extra chromosome 21 they carry includes the gene for amyloid precursor protein which causes early Alzheimer’s when overdosed or mutated.

In the study, published in the Nature group journal Molecular Psychiatry, the researchers collected hair cells from people with DS and reprogrammed them to become stem cells, which were then directed to turn into brain cells in a dish.

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Mini human livers grown from stem cells successfully implanted into rats

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Miniature human livers can be grown from stem cells and implanted into rats – and hopefully, one day humans

 Imagine needing a liver transplant, and instead of waiting for a donor, a new one could be grown from your own skin cells. Scientists have now taken quite a big step towards that future, by successfully transplanting miniature human livers grown from induced pluripotent stem cells (IPSCs) into rats.

Organ transplants save lives, but there are hurdles to overcome. For one, there’s a constant shortage of donors and, even when one is found, the patient’s immune system often rejects the new tissue.

Growing a replacement organ from a patient’s own cells could solve both problems. It can be done on demand when a patient needs one, and the organ won’t be rejected because the immune system recognizes the cells as “self.”

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Reprogrammed skin cells inserted in brain help Parkinson’s patient regain function – study

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REUTERS – Skin cells reprogrammed to produce the neurotransmitter dopamine and inserted deep into the brain of a 69-year-old man with Parkinson’s disease have allowed him to tie his shoes again and resume swimming and biking, researchers reported in The New England Journal of Medicine on Wednesday.

The experimental treatment, initiated two years ago and financed partly by the patient, used the man’s own skin cells to create dopamine-releasing nerve cells. Using his own cells dramatically lowers the risk of rejection by the immune system.

Parkinson’s, a progressive disease that affects millions of people worldwide, produces tremors, stiffness, and problems walking and speaking as the dopamine-producing cells in the brain degenerate.

Researchers say the transformed skin cells, transplanted into both hemispheres of the brain in surgical procedures six months apart, continued to produce the dopamine needed to ease the Parkinson’s symptoms.

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Experimental study speeds up bone healing with 2 common medications

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In rat experiments the duo of drugs increased levels of circulating stem cells and sped up healing of a spinal fracture

A new proof-of-concept study has found a combination of two drugs, already approved by the FDA for other uses, may boost the release of stem cells from bone marrow and accelerate the healing of broken bones. Only demonstrated in animals at this stage, the researchers suggest clinical trials could progress rapidly considering the drugs have already been demonstrated as safe in humans.

“The body repairs itself all the time,” says corresponding author on the study Sara Rankin. “We know that when bones break they will heal, and this requires the activation of stem cells in the bone. However, when the damage is severe, there are limits to what the body can do of its own accord.”

A great deal of current research is focusing on mesenchymal stem cell (MSC) therapies. MSCs are a type of adult stem cell that can grow into a variety of different cell types including muscle, fat or bone. Many current MSC treatments in development involve extracting a small number from a patient, growing them in laboratory conditions, then injecting them back into the patient.

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Scientists build “first living robots” from frog stem cells

 

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“It’s a new class of artifact: a living, programmable organism.”

A team of researchers have built what they claim to be the first living robots. The “xenobots,” they say, can move, pick up objects, and even heal themselves after being cut.

The team is hoping the biological machines could one day be used to clean up microplastics in the ocean or even deliver drugs inside the human body, The Guardian reports.

To build the robots, the team used living cells from frog embryos and assembled them into primitive beings.

“These are novel living machines,” research co-lead Joshua Bongard, robotics expert at the University of Vermont, said in a statement. “They’re neither a traditional robot nor a known species of animal. It’s a new class of artifact: a living, programmable organism.”

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