A new revolutionary stem cell technique is being used to treat those suffering from damaged muscles without the cancer risk that was previously present. This was the first time that researchers had successfully implanted synthetic stem cardiac cells that managed to repair the muscle that a previous heart attack has weakened. Cancer was previously a risk with traditional stem cell therapy as scientists were unable to stop former tumors as the cells continued to replicate.
The way in which stem cell therapies work is by secreting proteins and genetic material or repairing damaged tissue and the most commonly used form today is the bone marrow transplant. This procedure is mostly performed on those suffering from blood or bone marrow cancers such as leukemia. But, researchers are also working on developing effective stem cell treatments for those diagnosed with neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s and heart disease too.
We are hoping that this may be the first step towards a truly off-the-shelf cell product that would enable people to receive beneficial stem cell therapies when they’re needed
Professor Ke Cheng, North Carolina State University
Synthetic stem cells are very handy because unlike natural stem cells, they’re easy to preserve and can be adapted to be used in various parts of the body. Ke Cheng, associate professor of molecular biomedical sciences at North Carolina State University, said, “We are hoping that this may be the first step towards a truly off-the-shelf cell product that would enable people to receive beneficial stem cell therapies when they’re needed, without costly delays.”
Cheng and team created a cell-mimicking microparticle (CMMP) that they made out of a biodegradable and biocompatible polymer. They then added growth proteins which they’d harvested from human cardiac stem cells before coating the particle with a cardiac cell membrane as the final step. The results of the test proved satisfactory in both a lab dish and a mouse that had suffered a heart attack in promoting the growth of cardiac cells. And, because of the structure of it, CMMP can’t replicate meaning the risk of tumors forming reduces considerably.
Cheng also confirms that the technology can also be applied to other types of stem cells and says, “The synthetic cells operate much in the same way as a deactivated vaccine works. Their membranes allow them to bypass the immune response, bind to cardiac tissue, release growth factors and generate repair. But they cannot amplify by themselves, so you get the benefits of stem cell therapy without the risks.” So, it’s a win-win situation! What more could we ask for?