Stem cells have held a lot of promise—just introduce the cells into damaged tissue and they can grow into adult cells and repair damage, or treat degenerative disease. The reality hasn’t been so rosy; most embryonic stem cell therapy hasn’t worked very well.
Mark a stem cell victory thanks to a team of Texas researchers, however. Baboon embryonic stem cells were reprogrammed to repair a damaged artery in its entirety for the first time. John L. VandeBerg and his team at the Texas Biomedical Research Institute in San Antonio. The study, published in the Journal of Cellular and Molecular Medicine, opens the door to direct stem cell therapy to repair injuries (at least).
The team took a two-part approach:
First, they cultured the stem cells so they became precursors to blood vessels, and grew the cells in laboratory petri dishes. Then, they removed the inside walls of an artery. By replacing the original walls with the cultured stem cells, they could see if the stem cells could grow and differentiated into arterial wall cells.
The cells did. In about two weeks, the “damaged” inner tube of the artery had been restored to a fully functional blood vessel. Moreover, the new artery was as functional as a non-stem-cell derived artery. As a control, arterial tissue that went through the same process, but without adding stem cells, did not heal.
The scientists believe that if the growth of arterial stem cells can be harnessed in this specific way, then stem cells could be used to regenerate other organs, as well, opening the door to treatments for diabetes, congestive heart failure and other diseases.
Source: Science Daily
Shi, Q., Schatten, G., Hodara, V., Simerly, C., & VandeBerg, J. (2013). Endothelial reconstitution by CD34+ progenitors derived from baboon embryonic stem cells Journal of Cellular and Molecular Medicine DOI: 10.1111/jcmm.12002