Could Stem Cells Repair Loss of Smell?

A gradual loss or impairment of our sense of smell is a natural part of the normal ageing process. As we get older, many of us will experience a decline in our olfactory function, this will often result in a compromised or complete loss of smell. This in turn, affects the sense of taste. Loss of either, or both of these senses can significantly impact quality of life, and be hazardous to health and nutritional status.

This loss of smell is largely caused by a slow loss of stem cells in the nasal tissue that are present in young people, but lessen in number with age.

To date there have been no treatment options available to repair a person’s sense of smell.

Now, researchers at Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston are investigating the behaviour of stem cells related to the sense of smell in older people. Their research could be a step in the right direction to preventing deterioration and loss of smell in the future.

Regenerating nasal tissue

The research, led by Dr. James E. Schwob, managed to provide the first evidence that it is possible to regenerate nasal tissue in mice, therefore enlarging the population of adult stem cells.

Past research has shown that stem cells might regenerate in response to injury as part of the natural healing process. Dr, Schwob and his team tested this theory on mice and found that human stem cells regenerated in mice with injured nasal tissue. Perhaps more encouragingly, when they were transplanted into other mice, they were able to regenerate into different cell types.

Similarities can be seen between this study, and the Nobel Prize-winning approach developed by Dr. Shinya Yamanaka. Unlike Yamanaka, who induced cells taken from adult tissues to behave like embryonic stem cells by forcing them to express four genes, Schwob’s approach determined that only two of these four factors were critical to transforming the olfactory cells.

“The direct restoration of adult stem cells has implications for many types of tissue degeneration associated with aging, though we are several years away from designing actual therapies based on this work. The olfactory epithelium is a singularly powerful model for understanding how tissues regenerate or fail to do so,”

said Jim Schwob, M.D./Ph.D., a professor of Developmental, Molecular & Chemical Biology at Tufts University and senior author of the study.

If we can restore the population of stem cells in the olfactory epithelium by regenerating them or by administering the right drug as a nasal spray, we may be able to prevent deterioration in the sense of smell,” he continued.

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Stem Cell Research Holds Possibilities for Diabetic Foot Ulcers

Scientists in Glasgow have made a breakthrough, which could make a big difference to sufferers of diabetes by helping to treat their foot ulcers.

Foot ulcers are a common side effect of diabetes caused by nerve and blood vessel damage. An estimated 15% of diabetes patients develop foot ulcers as a result of the condition.

The impact of foot ulcers can be severe – for some patients the severity of the ulcers eventually leads to amputation.

Hope for Treatment

This latest study carried out by researchers at the Glasgow Caledonian University has managed to reprogramme human cells using leftover skin tissue from surgery to replicate wounds from diabetic foot ulcers.

The team used donor skin tissue samples from people with type 2 diabetes. From these they created batches of human stem cells ready to be reprogrammed into different types of cells including brain and nerve cells. It is hoped that in the future these cells will be able to be used to repair tissue and skin damage resulting from foot ulcers, and hopefully prevent the need for amputation.

The research is part of a three-year project funded by Animal Free Research UK who is hoping to develop new treatments for foot ulcers that do not need to be tested on animals, as currently is the case.

Professor Ann Graham, lead author of the study said:

“Over 135 diabetes-related amputations are carried out each week in the UK. We know that this is a growing problem and we hope that our work can inform research and aid others who require access to human material for medical research.”

Future research by the team will examine the links between type 2 diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease, as well as diabetic wound healing and psoriasis.

Regenerative Medicine Market projected to reach $5.5 Billion

According to analysis found in a new report, “Regenerative Medicine Market, 2014 – 2025”, the global regenerative medicine market size is expected to reach USD 5.59 billion in just eight years.

This high rate of growth is being attributed in part to the increased global geriatric age, with the World Health Organization now revealing the average life expectancy to be 71.4 years (2015). This is in addition to the increased prevalence of Neurodegenerative disorders, along with Orthopedic and other aging-related disorders. As biotechnology has advanced to seek treatments for these and other illnesses, this has lead to increased investment in the field. The biotechnology has so far enabled scientists to garner more in-depth knowledge of cell division, differentiation and mutation, as well as cell metabolism. According to a press release from Research and Markets, “this enriched knowledge, coupled with emergence of novel streams of biotechnology such as gene therapy and nanotechnology, further prospered use of cell-based technology in therapeutic treatment.”

Advancements have been made thanks to the identification of ways to use stem cells in regenerative medicine, according to the report. There has been increased coverage of such trials, and so many regenerative experts have looked to other potential fields for similar applications, such as induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC). According to the report, the demand for global regenerative medicine exceeded USD 1.7 billion in 2016, a figure that is expected to rapidly rise over the coming years as this research has lead to a strong pipeline of potential products and treatments. The study reveals that in  2016, therapeutics emerged as the largest product segment in the market, owing to it’s high rate of usage and  implementation. Where global regenerative services are concerned, demand for facilities such as tissue banks and cellular engineering tools is “expected to drive demand in the segment”.

Another key finding in the report was the impact that the emergence of gene therapy techniques has had on the industry. This has been a major driver, as treatments “Regenerative medicine grabs the attention of the healthcare industry owing to its promising applications along with significant advances in supportive fields including tissue engineering, stem cells, gene therapy, drug discovery and nanotechnology,” reads a report summary. “For instance, 3D printing over scaffold with stem cells to restore structure as well as functional characteristics of biological cells, tissues, and organs.Biologics, individually or in combination with cells or devices, are explored to support regenerate the biological functions of cells, tissues, or organs. A number of combinatorial therapies to support chemotherapy and other cancer treatments by prevention as well as treatment for cancer relapse are in development phases. In addition, rising prevalence of complicated degenerative disorders such as age-related macular degeneration, Alzheimer’s disease, and Parkinson’s disease, especially in the aging population resulted in high investments in R&D to develop therapeutic solutions.”

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.