College Station, TX, USA – Baby diapers, contact lenses and gelatin dessert. While seemingly unrelated, these items have one thing in common — they’re made of highly absorbent substances called hydrogels that have versatile applications. Recently, a type of biodegradable hydrogel, dubbed microporous annealed particle (MAP) hydrogel, has gained much attention for its potential to deliver stem cells for body tissue repair. But it is currently unclear how these jelly-like materials affect the growth of their precious cellular cargo, thereby limiting its use in regenerative medicine.
News & Commentaries
College Station, TX, USA – During the past decade, the gene editing tool CRISPR has transformed biology and opened up hopeful avenues to correct deadly inherited diseases. Now, the first human clinical trials using CRISPR have begun in the hopes of curing diseases by taking damaged cells out of patient and repairing and replacing them.
San Diego, CA, USA – Writing in the journal Stem Cells Translational Medicine, an international research team, led by physician-scientists at University of California San Diego School of Medicine, describe a new method for delivering neural precursor cells (NSCs) to spinal cord injuries in rats, reducing the risk of further injury and boosting the propagation of potentially reparative cells.The findings are published in the Jan. 29, 2020 print issue.
Groningen, The Netherlands – The surface on which cells are grown can affect their properties. Scientists have used molecular motors, which rotate when irradiated with light, to change the structure of a protein layer on which stem cells were seeded. These stem cells, derived from bone marrow, can form different cell types or they can remain stem cells. The movement of the motors primed the stem cells to transform more efficiently into bone cells. This technique could be used to dynamically control cellular behaviour on surfaces and create complex cell layers and tissues with different cell types by changing the properties of the protein layer at specific places.
Ann Arbor, MI, USA – Scientists at the University of Groningen and the University Medical Center Groningen used molecular motors to manipulate the protein matrix on which bone marrow-derived mesenchymal stem cells are grown. Rotating motors altered the protein structure, which resulted in a bias of the stem cells to differentiate into bone cells (osteoblasts). Without rotation, the stem cells tended to remain multipotent. These results, which could be used in tissue engineering, were published in Science Advances on 29 January.
Los Angeles, CA, USA – UCLA researchers are part of an international team that reported the use of a stem cell gene therapy to treat nine people with the rare, inherited blood disease known as X-linked chronic granulomatous disease, or X-CGD. Six of those patients are now in remission and have stopped other treatments. Before now, people with X-CGD – which causes recurrent infections, prolonged hospitalizations for treatment, and a shortened lifespan – had to rely on bone marrow donations for a chance at remission.
Sydney, Australia – Human stem cells and "pain-killing neurons" have successfully relieved chronic pain in mice. The breakthrough method may be tested on human patients suffering untreatable pain within five years.
Cambridge, MA, USA – When Marie Antoinette was captured during the French Revolution, her hair reportedly turned white overnight. In more recent history, John McCain experienced severe injuries as a prisoner of war during the Vietnam War — and lost color in his hair.
Aurora, CO, USA – A massive research effort over more than a quarter century has tried to make personalized blood stem cells for use in treating leukemias, among many other uses. One way researchers have gone about this is to sample a patient’s adult cells and then “deprogram” them to create induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs), which are capable of forming any of the body’s cell types, including blood cells. Unfortunately, these iPSCs also have the potential to become cancer. So researchers have largely refocused their efforts on making hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs), which can’t make any cell type, but can produce many types of blood cells. The good news is that HSCs don’t seem to cause cancer like iPCs. The bad news is that researchers have been unable to create HSCs that can take hold and grow in the body.
Washington, DC, USA – A stem cell transplant – also called a bone marrow transplant – is a common treatment for blood cancers, such as acute myeloid leukemia (AML). Such treatment can cure blood cancers but also can lead to life-threatening complications, including heart problems and graft-versus-host disease, in which new immune cells from the donor attack a patient’s healthy tissues.