Researchers find new way to kill cancer stem cells

For the scientific community, looking for ways to combat cancer continues to be a challenge, albeit one that has experienced a number of breakthroughs in recent years and even months.

cells

Researchers in Penn State recently found that grape-based compounds can kill colon cancer stem cells, after conducting petri-dish trials and trials on mine. In Salford, Manchester, researchers found that a combination of vitamin C and antibiotics can knock out cancer stem cells. Now just last week, researchers in Canada’s McMaster University have identified a unique feature of cancer stem cells, which could potentially play a vital role in the development of more targeted cancer treatments.

How existing drugs can kill deadly cancer stem cells

In a study published in Cell Chemical Biology, research reveals that an existing series of drugs has proved effective in killing off cancer stem cells.

It is thought that these stem cells play in part in the recurrence of cancer following treatment, and so using these drugs may be able to help patients stay cancer free. These drugs are thought to be able to attack these cancer cells thanks to the presence of a protein called Sam68. According to Mick Bhatia, the study’s principal investigator and scientific director of the McMaster Stem Cell and Cancer Research Institute, the findings are helping the team uncover how stem cells function in cancerous human tumours. “The drugs helped us to understand the biology,” he writes. “We’ve worked backwards, employing a series of drugs used in the clinic to understand a new way that cancer stem cells can be killed.”

It is the hope of Bhatia that this breakthrough will enable those being treated for cancer to receive more targeted, relevant therapy. While patients undergoing treatment for breast cancer currently receive targeted treatments depending on the type of disease, therapies for cancers for example do not. “In the case of breast cancer, other researchers have found new ways to make existing drugs more effective by only giving them to people who were likely to benefit based on their specific traits and using drugs that target these traits,” said Bhatia.

Stem cells help recovery from prostate surgery

It is relatively common for men recovering from prostate surgery to experience erectile dysfunction during recovery. Research shows that up to 80% of men have difficulty having sex in the months following the operation.

erectile

A clinical trial is pointing to the possibility of stem cells being used to help treat erectile dysfunction in these cases.

In the first-phase of clinical trials, eight out of 15 men who were unable to have an erection after their prostate surgery, had sex six months after one-time treatment of stem cells.

The procedure involves removing fat cells from a patient’s abdomen via liposuction. After a specialised treatment, these are transformed into all-purpose stem cells.

The stem cells are then injected into the penis, where they begin to change in to nerve and muscle cells, as well as the endothelial cells that line blood vessels.

The 12 month follow up showed that the success of the treatment was ongoing.

 “As far as we know, this is the first time that a human study with a 12-month follow up shows that the treatment is lasting and safe,” said Lars Lund, a professor at Odense University hospital in Denmark.

 “That is much better than taking a pill every time you want to have intercourse,” he said.

The study has been so successful, that the next stage, a double- blind randomised trial has been approved. This study will include a placebo group

Only men recovering from prostate cancer and able to control their bladders will be enrolled in the new experiments, Lund explained.

First ‘Haploid’ Stem Cells Could Mean Major Breakthrough for Medical Research

Human embryonic stem cells which have the potential to turn into any cell in the human body have been shown to have huge benefit over recent decades in everything from restoring eyesight, to treating multiple sclerosis.

‘Normal’ human cells are diploid, which means that they contain chromosomes from both parents – these don’t have the ability to divide into more cells.

Many attempts have been made to create haploid human embryonic stem cells – just containing the chromosomes from one parent – but until now this had only been successful in non-human animals such as mice, rats and monkeys.

However, this goal appear to have been reached by a research team at the Center for Stem Cells and Genetic Research at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. The team, lead by Ido Sagi achieved the first successful isolation and maintenance of haploid embryonic stem cells in humans. These cells were able to differentiate into many other cell types such as heart, brain and pancreas whilst retaining a single set of chromosomes.

This breakthrough is set to have huge implications on stem cell research and understanding of human development.

It will also make genetic screening easier and more precise, as well as giving scientists a further insight into the mechanisms of human sexual reproduction. It will also allow further research into resistance to chemotherapy, which could have huge future benefits within the use of personalised cancer therapy.

NewStem

 As a result of the breakthrough, the university created a company called NewStem, which is developing a diagnostic kit for predicting resistance to chemotherapy treatments.

The team hopes that by collecting a wide spectrum of human pluripotent stem cells with different genetic makeups, NewStem will be able to develop diagnostic kits for personalised treatments.

 

 

 

 

 

Stem Cell Breakthrough: Human Blood Stem Cells Grown For First Time

In one of the biggest breakthroughs in stem cell technology in recent years, scientists in the U.S have found a way to create human blood stem cells in a laboratory.

This could mean a huge step forward for the treatment of blood diseases and leukaemia in the future.

The Studies

Two separate studies in the U.S appear to have proven this possibility.

The first team, lead by George Daley, began by studying human pluripotent stem cells – a type of cell which can transform into any other cell in the body.

They then identified proteins which control the genes involved in blood production, and applied them to the stem cells. It was found that when five specific proteins were used together, they encouraged the stem cells to become blood stem cells. These stem cells were then transferred to mice, where they went on to produce new red and white blood cells and platelets.

The second team, at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York achieved similar results with stem cells taken from animals’ lungs. In this case, four different factors were founds to encourage their transformation into blood stem cells, which produced the same result when transferred into mice.

Great Possibilities

The results of the study could be monumental in the treatment of blood diseases and leukaemia. The ability to grow blood stem cells in a lab from an individual’s own cells would remove the need for bone marrow transplants from a donor.

Finding a blood marrow donor can be notoriously difficult – unless an immediate member of the family is identified as a match, the chances of finding a stranger who is a match are very low. They could also be used to create blood for transfusions.

“Both sets of results represent a “breakthrough”, says Carolina Guibentif at the University of Cambridge. “This is something people have been trying to achieve for a long time”

A Way to Go

Although results look very hopeful, the lab-made cells are not yet ready for use on humans. They are not yet as effective as cells in the body at making blood, there is still a risk that the cells could mutate and cause cancer.

However, Daley hopes that this procedure will be honed and could be ready to be used within the next couple of years.

The ultimate hope would be to be able to create a whole blood supply suitable for transfusions. Not only would such a supply be more reliable than that from donors, but it would also be free of disease.

When new pathogens like Zika pop up, you have to make sure that blood is safe,” says Daley. “We’d be able to have more quality control.”

 

Can Stem Cells Slow Down the Ageing Process?

Since the use of stem cells in medicine first entered the mainstream consciousness, there has been talk of their ability to slow down, or even eventually stop the ageing process.

The main reason for this was initially their ability to regenerate and repair failing organs and tissues. Although this has, and still is, being used as an application in various circumstances such as repairing heart tissue and restoring vision, scientists have found a greater application in modelling disease for drug discovery and in targeting treatment for personalised medicine.

But could stem cells still be used to slow down, halt or even reverse the ageing process?

Stem cells are an important part of the body’s repair system, but they too, lose regenerative ability as we age.

“The hypothesis is that stem cell function deteriorates with age, driving events we know occur with aging, like our limited ability to fully repair or regenerate healthy tissue following injury.”

Professor David Scadden, co-director of the Harvard Stem Cell Institute

It appears that particular tissues and chemical pathways send signals to others that it is time to age. Therefore if these specific tissues, such as nerve cells and insulin pathways, were targeted, could this halt ageing for the entire body?

Reducing the insulin signaling pathway, which helps the hormone insulin metabolize glucose, has been shown to greatly extend life span in flies and worms.

Stem cells within blood have been targeted as a place to look for molecules that could prompt ageing. Studies carried out on mice have shown that the blood of a young mouse rejuvenates the organs of an older mouse when the circulatory systems of two mice were joined. Improvements in brain function were also found, prompting a Californian stem cell company – Alkahast – to begin experiments giving Alzheimer’s patients plasma from young blood in hopes of improving cognition and brain function.

A Change in Understanding

Two decades in to stem cell research, and the understanding of the field has undoubtedly changed.

“Much of stem cell medicine is ultimately going to be ‘medicine,’” Scadden said. “Even here, we thought stem cells would provide mostly replacement parts. I think that’s clearly changed very dramatically. Now we think of them as contributing to our ability to make disease models for drug discovery.”

The difference in the understanding of stem cell biology has also changed. The lack of plasticity of certain stem cells within stem cell subpopulations could explain the variation in ageing.

Stem Cell Therapy Brings Hope to Children with Autism

Autism is a condition which affects an estimated 1 in 45 people in the UK. Around 30% of autistic children will never learn to speak, and many children even with early behavioural interventions still struggle to adapt. Although early intervention and behaviour management strategies help, there are no medically approved treatments that improve the core symptoms of autism.

A recent study by Duke University in North Carolina has shown some promising results that point to the possibility of being able to treat autism using stem cells found in a child’s own cord blood.

First-of-its-Kind

The first-of-its-kind study was lead by Dr. Joanne Kurtzberg, one of the lead researchers at the Carolinas Cord Blood Bank, and Dr. Geraldine Dawson director of the Duke Center for Autism and Brain Development. After seeing successful trials using cord blood to treat children with inherited metabolic disorders and cerebral palsy, they saw a great need for further medical advances in the treatment of autism.

The study involved 25 children with autism whose parents had previously banked blood from their umbilical cord at birth.

In the first treatment each child was given an IV infusion of their own cord blood containing 1-2 billions cells. Three times over the course of a year, an evaluation of the child’s brain activity was carried out, and behavioural observations made.

Positive results

After one year, more than two thirds of children showed significant and continued improvements in behaviour as evaluated by their parents and researchers. This included throwing less tantrums, showing less volatile behaviour, and generally being calmer in every day life.

“Some children, who were not speaking very much, had big increases in their vocabulary and their functional speech,” Kurtzberg says. “Many children were able to attend to play and have meaningful communication in a way that they weren’t before. Some children had less repetitive behaviors than they did when they came onto the study.”

Parents of one of the children, Gracie Gregory, were even able to let her go to a mainstream school, something they previously thought impossible.

Positive but not conclusive

Whilst the research is promising, any results need to be treated cautiously.

As a safety study, not a controlled, double-blind study, it cannot yield definitive proof of positive results. The study was open-label, meaning everyone – the doctors and the families – knew that the therapy was being administered. This means that positive results could be attributed to a number of other factors including a natural improvement of behaviour with age, and the parents subconsciously wanting to see and therefore magnifying any improvements.

A larger second double-blind, placebo-controlled trial is now underway which will involved 165 autistic children between 2 to 8 years old. The added placebo control element, and higher number of children involved, will allow the researchers to better assess the effectiveness of the treatment.

US clinical study seeks to see if stem cells can cure baldness

Four American surgeons are the latest group of many worldwide who are attempting to see how stem cells could be used to combat baldness.

In the five-patient study lead by Kenneth Williams, D.O. of Orange County Hair Restoration, a clinical trial is taking place in which PRP and stem cells are being used in conjunction with each other to treat hair loss. Fat is removed from the abdomen before being emulsified to separate the stem cells. These cells are then mixed with the patient’s concentrated plasma before the mixed formula is injected into the scalp. Williams hopes the results of his study will be publishable in two years’ time. “The study is taking cells that are in our body that help to regenerate or stimulate inactive or dormant hair follicles,” he told news outlets. “That is the theory behind what we’re doing this procedure on.”

Overseas trials already showing promise

The American Hair Loss Association notes that two-thirds of men will experience some thinning by the age of 35, while by the age of 50, roughly 85 per cent will be affected by significant thinning.

It’s perhaps no wonder then that so many scientists around the world are searching for ways to utilise stem cells to cure the condition. Clinical trials in Japan for example are already making significant strides in research; Kyocera Corp and Organ Technologies are conducting regenerative medicine trials in attempts to develop a cure. Led by Takashi Tsuji, the research team has already had some success in regeneration using stem cells, using them to reinvigorate hair follicles in mice. Hormones can impact the natural cycle of hair follicle regeneration, which is powered by stem cells, as can damage caused via trauma. Taking tips from skin restoration, follicular regenerative medicine works by removing small patches of skin and hair follicles from scalp to extract active stem cells. These are then multiplied, processed, and transformed into follicles using what Tsuji has dubbed the primordium method. These transformed cells are then injected into the patient’s scalp. This process differs from current baldness cures as the hair follicles are actually regenerated, as opposed to treatments such as hair transplants, which simply move the hair from one place to another.

Given that approximately 18 million people suffer with hair loss in Japan, it’s not only Takashi Tsuji and his team who are on working on potential cures. Cosmetic giants Shiseido Co. have plans to release a cure for baldness throughout Japan and other countries in Asia as early as next year.