The archetype for medicine has always a cure-all for all known and unknown diseases, despite the difficulty or severity of the condition. Although modern medicine isn’t at its peak, its efforts in the past few decades have steadily closed the gap, inch by inch. This article will go over some of those exemplary results, founded in the research completed in May of 2019, that provide a great deal of excitement for both patients and healers alike.
In Miami, Florida, a stem cell therapy was delivered into the nose of a mouse in order to test if it could restore the sense of smell due to olfactory loss. Olfactory loss or damage can be found in 12 percent of the U.S. population simply due to age-related decline, post-viral damage, head trauma, or genetic disorders affecting the neuron’s functions.
There are currently few treatments available that can remedy neuron damage and, as a result, impairments in the sense of smell are often permanent. However, recent studies in mice have shown the potential of viral gene therapy to restore olfactory function but the downside is that viral gene therapy can only be used during specific conditions. In contrast, exploration of cellular replacement therapy is being done for its wider range of uses.
To create a mouse model with the necessary dysfunctional neurons, Dr. Bradley Goldstein and his team deleted the lft88 gene in their model which prevented the cells’ growth of cilia – hair-like structures required for sensing odors. They proceeded to expose the altered area to nose droplets containing globose basal cells – a pool of replicating stem cells which would replenish the aging or damaged olfactory sensory neurons. Afterward, in a behavioral test, the lft88-deficient mice that received the stem cell therapy responded well to an aversive odor while the lft88-deficient mice that didn’t receive the stem cell therapy didn’t respond to the odor.
Furthermore, there was no evidence of tumor growth within the timeframe of the study – thus supporting the safety of this particular treatment. In further studies, Dr. Goldstein and his team wish to analyze the exact nature of human olfactory disorders in order to see if a similar treatment with stem cells could be used to restore damaged and aging cells.
Down Syndrome Treatment
Rutgers University led an impressive study focused on specific genes related to the development of Down Syndrome. By targeting this key gene, it’s possible that it could reverse the abnormal embryonic brain development and improve cognitive function after birth. The process began by investigating early brain development in a mouse brain that was implanted with human cells.
By creating a model of the mice, they discovered that the OLIG2 gene is potentially responsible. By inhibiting the gene, the mice showed increased cognitive function. They also discovered that the inhibitory neurons – which make one’s brain function smoothly – were being overproduced in the mice and this led to impaired memory in the adults. The results of these models were determined to be useful for the study of other neurodevelopment disorders.
Sleeping Stem Cells
Despite the impressive capability of stem cells in the body, brain stem cells begin to “fall asleep” as we age and repairs are needed. Until recently, researchers had been unsuccessful with decoding the sleeping mechanism that prevents brain stem cells from waking up more easily. Currently, researchers at Kyoto University are studying brain chemistry in mice to see what gene expression can assist the awakening process in stem cells.
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The team focused their attention on the Hes1 protein, expressed in adult cells, which normally suppresses the production of other proteins like Ascl1, which is produced, in some amounts, in most active stem cells. By analyzing the production of the two proteins over time, the team was able to pinpoint a pattern that led to the stem cells waking up and turning into neurons in the brain. After seeing the pattern, they manipulated the production of proteins and were able to activate the majority of the neural stem cells.
Dr. Kageyama, one of the senior researchers noted that it is imperative that these genes are further studied because they are responsible for “both the active and quiescent states of these stem cells.” A better understanding of how they are regulated will allow researchers to manipulate the mechanisms in patients who may suffer from neurological disorders or brain trauma, thus, allowing the dormant stem cells to activate and begin the regeneration of crucial cells.
Heart Attack Recovery
Researchers from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai have demonstrated that stem cells derived from the placenta are capable of regenerating healthy heart cells after heart attacks in animal models. If replicated successfully in humans, it’s possible that this could nullify the risks of cardiac arrest during and after surgical operations. The lead investigator, Hina Chaudhry, M.D. at the Icahn School of Medicine, noted that by using Cdx2 cells, historically thought to only generate the placenta in early embryonic development, they acted as a population of stem cells once injected into the site of an injury whilst avoiding rejection by host immune system.
Using of Mouse Placenta Cells
The idea came from a previous study where the team of Mount Sinai researchers had discovered a mixed population of mouse placenta stem cells restoring the injured hearts of pregnant female mice that would have led to heart failure if left unchecked. In that study, they noticed the placenta stem cells migrate to the mother’s heart and directly to the site of injury – the cells then programmed themselves as beating heart cells to help the recovery process. So for this new study, the team’s goal was to determine what type of stem cells made the heart cells regenerate. Cdx2 cells were the most prevalent stem cell type in the previous study and it turned out to be the same for the current one.
To test Cdx2’s regenerative properties, the researchers induced heart attacks in three groups of male mice. One group received Cdx2 stem cell treatments, one group received placenta cells that did not express Cdx2, and the last group received a saline control. All mice that received Cdx2 stem cell treatments had significant improvement and regeneration of healthy tissues in the heart. By three months, the stem cells had migrated directly to the heart injury and formed new blood vessels and heart muscle cells while the mice without Cdx2 stem cells went into heart failure and showed no signs of cell regeneration. The researchers noted that Cdx2 cells had the properties of embryonic stem cells as well as the ability to migrate to injured sites. The results showed that the properties would be essential for the future development of human stem cell treatments and with the abundance of placentas, it could be a limitless source for treatment.
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