When infections occur in the body, stem cells in the blood often jump into action by multiplying and differentiating into mature immune cells that can fight off illness. But repeated infections and inflammation can deplete these cell populations, potentially leading to the development of serious blood conditions such as cancer.
Now, a team of researchers led by biologists at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) has found that, in mouse models, the molecule microRNA-146a (miR-146a) acts as a critical regulator and protector of blood-forming stem cells (called hematopoietic stem cells, or HSCs) during chronic inflammation, suggesting that a deficiency of miR-146a may be one important cause of blood cancers and bone marrow failure.
A woman received a transplant of her own bone marrow stem cells, was able to avoid an amputation, and has started to walk again following an operation performed at Catholic University in Campobasso. This is one of the few such operations performed in Europe on the cardiovascular system using adult stem cells. The results were announced yesterday, about a month after the operation, and it is now clear that it will not be necessary to amputate the woman’s leg. “We can say that the operation was a complete success surgically,” said doctors that worked under Francesco Alessandrini, the director of the Cardiovascular Disease Department. It was a team effort thanks to the collaboration of the Hematology Unit led by Sergio Stroti, the Medical Images Department led by Giuseppina Sallustio, the laboratory led by Bruno Zappacosta, and the Anaesthesia and Intensive Therapy Unit led by Marco Rossi.
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Plerixafor has allowed doctors to collect stem cells from patients where there had been previous difficulties.
The drug, which has only recently been licensed, is being used at the Beatson West of Scotland Cancer Centre.
Stem cells therapies are used to treat people with cancer of the blood. The cells are collected and reintroduced to a patient after chemotherapy.
Doctors often encounter problems collecting enough stem cells from about one in 10 cancer patients to undergo treatment.
Plerixafor has, so far, had a 100% success rate in allowing doctors at the cancer centre to collect enough cells from patients who fall into this category.
Blood specialist, Dr Kenneth Douglas, explained how the drug worked.
“Basically it blocks a chemical scent that stem cells sniff for that tells them they’re in the bone marrow,” he said.
“If you block that chemical scent they get confused and agitated and they think they are not in the bone marrow any more and they start wandering into the blood stream looking for the bone marrow.”
When more stem cells “start wandering into the blood” doctors are able to collect them for future treatment.
One patient who has benefited from this approach is retired professional golfer, Billy McCondachie.
He said his age was a barrier to potential stem cell treatment.
“We were only able to get about half of my stem cells out until Dr Douglas came along with this new drug,” he said.
“One could say that pretty much saved my life.”
The centre in Glasgow has now treated 13 people with the drug and every one has been able to proceed with stem cell treatment.
from BBC news
Leukemia, the most common form of childhood cancer, affects the blood-forming cells in the bone marrow. It is often treated with stem cell transplants that replace the patient’s bone marrow cells with stem cells donated by a healthy individual. Successful transplant depends on finding a donor who is a close genetic match to the patient. That’s a particular challenge for patients from racial and ethnic minority groups, who may die while waiting for a matching donor.
But a mostly-untapped source of genetically diverse stem cells is right under our noses: Blood left in the umbilical cord after a baby is born. Though it has typically been discarded as medical waste, this blood has real value, as a Packard Children’s press release explains:
With the right system in place, cord blood can be collected at no risk to a new mother and baby, and given to unrelated patients who need the stem cells. This public system is distinct from private cord blood banks, which charge families fees to collect cord blood and store it for their own possible use.
“The chance of needing banked cord blood for your own child is very remote,” said Maurice Druzin, MD, division chief of Maternal-Fetal Medicine at Packard Children’s. Because blood cancers are so rare, very few families who privately bank cord blood use the cells, Druzin explained. “But these cells are potentially lifesaving for someone else.”
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A University of Bristol team extracted stem cells from the veins, then used them to stimulate new blood vessel growth in mice, Circulation reports.
The researchers say their findings could bring treatments to repair damaged heart muscle one step closer.
However, a stem cell expert warned that they remained some years away.
Stem cells are attractive to medical researchers because they have the ability to produce many different types of human cell, opening up the possibility of repair or renewal for tissues ravaged by disease or injury (…)
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