Stem cell breakthrough gives new hope to sufferers of muscle-wasting diseases

Mar 05, 2009

An experimental procedure that dramatically strengthens stem cells' ability to regenerate damaged tissue could offer new hope to sufferers of muscle-wasting diseases such as myopathy and muscular dystrophy, according to researchers from the University of New South Wales (UNSW).

The world-first procedure has been successfully used to regrow muscles in a mouse model, but it could be applied to all tissue-based illnesses in humans such as in the liver, pancreas or brain, the researchers say.

The research team, which is based at UNSW and formerly from Sydney's Westmead Children's Hospital, adapted a technique currently being trialled in bone marrow transplantation. Adult stem cells are given a gene that makes them resistant to chemotherapy, which is used to clean out damaged cells and allow the new stem cells to take hold.

A paper detailing the breakthrough appears in the prestigious journal Stem Cells this week.

The ability of adult stem cells to regenerate whole tissues opens up a world of new possibilities for many human diseases, according to the lead authors of the paper, Professor Peter Gunning, Professor Edna Hardeman and Dr Antonio Lee, from UNSW's School of Medical Sciences.

"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," Professor Gunning said.

"What has been the realm of science fiction is looking more and more like the medicine of the future," he said.

The procedure solves one of the major hurdles involving stem cell therapy - getting the cells to survive for more than an hour or so after inserting them into damaged tissue.

"In muscle, most stem cells die in the first hour or are present in such low numbers that they are not much help," Professor Gunning said. "Until now, the new healthy cells had no advantage over the existing damaged tissue and were getting out-competed.

While trials of the procedure are at the pre-clinical stage, researchers are looking to launch human trials treating specific forms of muscular dystrophy such as oculopharyngeal dystrophy within the next three to five years.

Source: University of New South Wales

Explore further: Ulcer-causing bacteria induces stomach stem cell growth in mice, researchers find

Related Stories

Role of telomeres in plant stem cells discovered

Apr 30, 2015

The role played by telomeres in mammalian cells has been known for several years. It is also known that these non-coding DNA sequences, which are found at the ends of the chromosomes, protect them and are ...

Highly efficient CRISPR knock-in in mouse

May 01, 2015

Genome editing using CRISPR/Cas system has enabled direct modification of the mouse genome in fertilized mouse eggs, leading to rapid, convenient, and efficient one-step production of knockout mice without ...

Mechanisms for continually producing sperm

May 01, 2015

Continually producing sperm over a long time is important to procreate the next generation. Researchers of the National Institute for Basic Biology, National Institutes of Natural Sciences in Japan, Ms. Kanako ...

Recommended for you

How proteins evolved the capacity for movement within cells

18 hours ago

The process behind how the molecular components of living organisms start to move has been explained for the first time in new research published by Science and it is an intricate set of dance steps where the tempo is set ...

How do neural cells respond to ischemia?

19 hours ago

A group of researchers from the Lomonosov Moscow State University, in collaboration with their Irish colleagues from the University College Cork, has studied the early response of cells to ischemia, which ...

User comments : 2

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

moj85
not rated yet Mar 05, 2009
dangerous - creating cells that are resistant to chemotherapy? This might come back to bite us in the butt..
jim444
not rated yet Jun 20, 2009
If your gonna die anyway..Id do it.

Does seem Stem Cells are getting closer into clinical being....it's clear we are very close to a major advancement.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.