Stem cell research and science is gaining momentum and giving hope to millions across the world who currently suffer from various diseases and conditions.
Since stem cells were first discovered, medicine has made giant strides to help patients regenerate lost tissues and recover from chronic conditions.
Universities and health institutes all over the world are teaming up to discover how many conditions can be helped with the use of stem cell therapies and transplants. The most recent research discoveries from major universities across the nation has propelled stem cell science into areas dreamed about.
In a recent issue of Time magazine, a story heralding the advances of stem cell science addresses how stem cells are being used to treat disease instead of drug therapy.
Stem cell transplants have been used for years now to treat leukemia and lymphoma patients. Recently, a unborn child was given a stem cell transplant successfully for the first time as doctors learn how they can help the body regenerate, naturally, without the use of drugs or other invasive methods.
“With stem cells like those found in bone marrow, scientists are taking advantage of what the body does naturally: generate itself anew. Many of the adult body’s organs and tissues, including fat cells and blood, are equipped with their own stash of stem cells whose sole job is to regenerate cells and tissues when older ones are damaged or die off and which can be harvested for research and growth outside the body,” Time reported.
Stem cell science today allows for new treatments for diseases through cellular regeneration, but the field is also supporting the study of living cells.
“Labs across the country are incubating so-called mini-brains, made up of tens of thousands of brain cells grown from iPS cells, to serve as models for studying psychiatric disorders from autism to schizophrenia. Such knowledge could lead to new treatments in a field where therapies haven’t been as widely successful as doctors hoped,” Time reported.
Scientists are excited about the potential of stem cells for treating multiple sclerosis, traumatic brain injury, cerebral palsy, ALS, and Alzheimer’s disease. How? With transplant trials. Research on animal models is already underway for Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, spinal cord injury and stroke and proving to be promising, reports the American Association of Neurological Surgeons (AANS).
“Currently grafts from fetal tissue, tumor lines and stem cells have been transplanted. Successes in animal models have led to transplant trials in the human population,” the AANS reported.
For the first time, UC San Francisco scientists believe they may have found a solution to stem cell rejection and reprogramming issues by creating what they have termed “universal” stem cells that are pluripotent.
(Pluripotent means the stem cell can differentiate into any given specialized cell — and they will not trigger an immune response from the receiver’s body.)
With patient rejection and reprogramming errors being one of the biggest hurdles to overcome with stem cell science, the UC San Francisco team turned to a gene-editing tool called CRISPR.
“The UC San Francisco team used a gene-editing technique they call CRISPR-Cas9, and they modified the activity of as few as three genes to “shield” the new stem cells from the immune system, and allow the body to more easily accept them.
The researchers tested these newly altered stem cells in mouse models they engineered to simulate the bodies of recipients with a tendency to reject transplants — a characteristic they call “histocompatibility mismatch” — and with fully functioning immune systems,” Medical News Today reported.
“This is the first time anyone has engineered cells that can be universally transplanted and can survive in immunocompetent recipients without eliciting an immune response,” Dr. Deuse says. “Our technique solves the problem of rejection of stem cells and stem cell-derived tissues, and represents a major advance for the stem cell therapy field.”
The future looks bright with stem cell science.