Scientists have made a breakthrough in stem cell research which raises the prospect of regrowing damaged sections of a person’s liver, pancreas or even their brain.
Researchers at the University of NSW have found a way to improve the lifespan and competitiveness of stem cells, overcoming a problem which otherwise saw their regenerative powers fade in about an hour.
Adult stem cells were given a gene to make them resistant to chemotherapy, handing them an “advantage” when used to treat damaged tissue in conjunction with the cancer-fighting treatment.
University of NSW Professor Peter Gunning said as the chemotherapy cleaned out damaged cells, resistant stem cells were left behind to complete their amazing process of turning into healthy replacements thereby restoring the tissue.
“What has been the realm of science fiction is looking more and more like the medicine of the future,” Prof Gunning said.
“The beauty of this technique is that chemotherapy makes space for stem cells coming into muscle and also gives the stem cells an advantage over the locals.
“It’s the first strategy that gives the good guys the edge in the battle to cure sick tissues.”
The experimental procedure was used to regrow muscles in a mouse, but Prof Gunning said it could eventually be applied to all tissue-based illnesses in humans such as in the liver, pancreas or brain.
It could lead to breakthroughs in the treatment of muscle wasting diseases such as myopathy and muscular dystrophy.
Prof Cunning said talks were underway with a French research body which could lead to human trials in three to five years.
“In muscle, most stem cells die in the first hour or are present in such low numbers that they are not much help,” Prof Gunning said of conventional stem cell processes.
“Until now, the new health cells had no advantage over the existing damaged tissue and were getting outcompeted.”
The research, conducted by Prof Gunning along with Professor Edna Hardeman and Dr Antinion Lee from the university’s School of Medical Sciences, is published in the journal Stem Cells.
from The Australian