(Below is an excerpt from “Tissue Engineering, Cell Therapy and Transplantation: Products, Technologies & Market Opportunities, Worldwide, 2009-2018”, Report #S520.)
Experts believe that stem cell therapy has the potential to treat a broad range of acute and chronic degenerative diseases. These applications include: hematopoietic cells for blood diseases and cancer, myocardial and endothelial vascular tissue for cardiovascular disease, congestive heart failure, myocardial infarction and other cardiovascular disease skin cells for dermatological conditions, retinal pigment epithelium cells as treatment for macular degeneration and retinal pigmentosis, neural cells for spinal cord injury, Parkinson’s disease and other neurodegenerative diseases, pancreatic islet ÃŸ cells for diabetes, liver cells for hepatitis and cirrhosis, cartilage cells for arthritis, and lung cells for a variety of pulmonary diseases. As populations age in developed countries, the need to treat increasing numbers of people with these disorders is likewise increasing.
With increased attention being paid to the need for these technologies, researchers have been reporting promising results in several areas.
In results reported in 2009, scientists from MIT found that stem cells can improve stem cellsâ€™ ability to regenerate vascular tissue by equipping them with genes that produce extra growth factors. These results were produced in mice; specially developed nanoparticles were used to deliver vascular endothelial growth factor to stem cells removed from the mousesâ€™ bone marrow. The enhanced stem cells were then implanted into damaged tissue, where they regenerated blood vessles near the injury, thus allowing the damaged tissue to survive.
Other results reported in 2009 (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, September 2009) showed researchers have had some success in engineering human tissue patches for cardiovascular repair. These clinicians (from the University of Washington, led by Dr. Charles Murry) created disk-shaped patches measuring less than a millimeter up to a half-inch in diameter decided to examine the possibility of creating new tissue with supply lines for oxygen and nutrients needed by living cells. Previously, heart tissue patches composed of only heart muscle cells could not grow big enough or survive long enough to adhere to the heart once implanted. Researchers added to the heart muscle cell mixture two other types of cells similar to those inside blood vessels and cells that provide vascular muscular support. All of the heart muscle cells were derived from embryonic stem cells or a variety of more mature sources such as umbilical cord blood. The result was seen in the formation of tissue containing tiny blood vessels.
On the orthopedic front, adult stem cells were used to regrow a 14-year-old boyâ€™s missing cheekbones at the Cincinnati Childrenâ€™s Hospital Medical Center. The technique used reengineered autologous stem cells.
In another example, scientists at the University of Bristol developed new scaffolds that can be used to grow such tissues as skin, nerves and cartilage. They built the scaffolds by using proteins from alpha helices to create long fibers (hydrogelating self-assembling fibers or hydrogels).