Category Archives: Stem Cells

Stem cell therapy lengthens telomeres for those with premature aging disease

People with a rare premature aging disease called dyskeratosis congenita (DKC) experience many of the symptoms we associate with the normal aging process – such as gray hair – but also experience serious symptoms such as anemia and a predisposition to cancer.

It is thought that the symptoms of DKC are brought on by the body’s inability to properly maintain telomeres, the caps on the end of chromosomes that get shorter as we age. Researchers at Children’s Hospital Boston were able to “reprogram” cells using a stem cell therapy that actually lengthened telomeres, providing hope for those diagnosed with DKC but also those of us who hope to escape the ravages of aging:

In the new study, Suneet Agarwal, a physician and researcher at Children’s Hospital, and collaborators took skin cells from three patients with the disease and genetically engineered the cells to express a set of genes that triggers reprogramming, reverting the cells to an embryonic state. They were surprised to find that the reprogrammed cells grew and divided, their telomeres lengthening with subsequent divisions.

“They show that they can make the cells young,” says Lorenz Studer, a physician and scientist at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, in New York, who was not involved in the research. The defect in the telomerase enzyme “seems to be repressed or overridden during reprogramming, which probably explains why patients do reasonably well in the early stages of life,” he says. “Patients still have same mutation whether in the [skin cell] or iPS cell, but the mutation only manifests itself in the differentiated cell.”

The results of the study were published online last week in the journal Nature.

(Via Instapundit)

NFL star receives stem cell treatments in Europe

Reports claim Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning has turned to stem cell therapy to help accellerate his recovery from a career-threatening neck injury. The injury has been causing the NFL star significant trouble and has required repeated surgeries.

Manning underwent surgery to repair a nerve in his neck in the off-season, and earlier this month, Manning had surgery to fuse his C2 and C3 vertebrae. Today it was reported that prior to this most recent surgery,  Manning traveled to Europe to receive stem cell treatments. Jay Glazer of FOX Sports describes the procedure:

Glazer said the procedure performed in Europe was different from the type of  embryonic stem cell treatments available in the US.

“They actually went and took some fat cells, probably out of his belly, and  they put it in a culture,” Glazer said. “And they try to almost turn back the  hands of time with these cells and they inject them in the neck, hoping that  these cells regenerate the area, regenerate the nerves.”

The procedure is not approved by the FDA, thus requiring the trans-Atlantic trip. I haven’t seen details on where Manning received his treatments, although from what I understand, there are serious questions of the safety and effectiveness of overseas stem cell clinics – these treamtments run the gamut from “highly experimental” to “a scam” depending on the treatment center in question. A few months ago, Europe’s largest stem cell treatment center, XCell, shut down following the death of a baby who received an injection of stem cells into the brain.

Nonetheless, when people have limited options to feel better, they’re going to opt for treatments such as these. While the science is still thin and the actual results from stem cell clinics are mixed at best, Manning obviously thought it was worth a shot. Unfortunately for him, the treatments don’t seem to have helped.

Next step in fast evolution of tissue engineering: 3D-printed capillaries

A team of German researchers claims to have found success in creating artificial capillaries, the smallest blood vessels in the body, via a 3D printer. These capillaries could be used to provide blood to lab grown organs in the future. From the BBC:

To print something as small and complex as a blood vessel, the scientists combined the 3D printing technology with two-photon polymerisation – shining intense laser beams onto the material to stimulate the molecules in a very small focus point.

The material then becomes an elastic solid, allowing the researchers to create highly precise and elastic structures that would be able to interact with a human body’s natural tissue.

So that the synthetic tubes do not get rejected by the living organism, their walls are coated with modified biomolecules.

Such biomolecules are also present in the composition of the “inks” used for the blood vessel printer, combined with synthetic polymers.

The team that developed this technique will be showing off their new technology at Biotechnica 2011 in October.

Scientists have been looking toward 3D organ printing as a potential path forward for tissue engineering for years, and with researchers on the verge of figuring out how to replace filing kidneys with 3D-printed versions (and having already used similar technology to replace bladders), humans are close to a day where we don’t have to worry about organ donor shortages or take anti-rejection drugs to live with transplanted organs.

That day can’t come soon enough.

New process allows scientists to make stem cells from skin cells

Embryonic stem cell research has faced significant controversy in the United States. Although private embryonic stem cell research is legal and unrestricted, the federal government is not allowed to fund any stem cell research that results in the destruction of the embryo. This has led to researchers exploring alternatives to embryonic destruction or ways to create stem cells that would avoid using human embryos altogether.

Today researchers from Harvard Medical School reported they’ve discovered a “surprisingly quick and apparently safe” way to transform skin cells into stem cells, which have the ability to themselves transform into other cell types. The process involves using RNA to carry new genes into the existing stem cells. In the past, scientists have used viruses to carry the genes, but this had led to serious complications, including development of cancer.

The researchers note this process should not be expected to replace embryonic research, but do note they “believe that our approach has the potential to become a major and perhaps even central enabling technology for cell-based therapies and regenerative medicine.”

Results of their research are published in the journal Cell Stem Cell.

Highlights from the AAAS Annual Meeting

The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) held their annual meeting this week, and naturally a lot of very interesting stories and research results were unveiled:

Stem cell therapy lengthens telomeres for those with premature aging disease

People with a rare premature aging disease called dyskeratosis congenita (DKC) experience many of the symptoms we associate with the normal aging process – such as gray hair – but also experience serious symptoms such as anemia and a predisposition to cancer.

It is thought that the symptoms of DKC are brought on by the body’s inability to properly maintain telomeres, the caps on the end of chromosomes that get shorter as we age. Researchers at Children’s Hospital Boston were able to “reprogram” cells using a stem cell therapy that actually lengthened telomeres, providing hope for those diagnosed with DKC but also those of us who hope to escape the ravages of aging:

In the new study, Suneet Agarwal, a physician and researcher at Children’s Hospital, and collaborators took skin cells from three patients with the disease and genetically engineered the cells to express a set of genes that triggers reprogramming, reverting the cells to an embryonic state. They were surprised to find that the reprogrammed cells grew and divided, their telomeres lengthening with subsequent divisions.

“They show that they can make the cells young,” says Lorenz Studer, a physician and scientist at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, in New York, who was not involved in the research. The defect in the telomerase enzyme “seems to be repressed or overridden during reprogramming, which probably explains why patients do reasonably well in the early stages of life,” he says. “Patients still have same mutation whether in the [skin cell] or iPS cell, but the mutation only manifests itself in the differentiated cell.”

The results of the study were published online yesterday in the journal Nature.

(Via Instapundit)