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: Mutation may cause early loss of sperm supply

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

New study shows safer methods for stem cell culturing

19 hours ago

A new study led by researchers at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) and the University of California (UC), San Diego School of Medicine shows that certain stem cell culture methods are associated with increased DNA mutations. ...

Appeals court considering warrantless cellphone tracking

Feb 24, 2015

(AP)—Now that the cellphone in your pocket can be used to track your movements, federal appeals judges in Atlanta are considering whether investigators must get a search warrant from a judge to obtain cellphone tower tracking ...

Engineers put the 'squeeze' on human stem cells

Feb 10, 2015

After using optical tweezers to squeeze a tiny bead attached to the outside of a human stem cell, researchers now know how mechanical forces can trigger a key signaling pathway in the cells.

Recommended for you

Owls and lizards lend their ears for human hearing research

42 minutes ago

Lizards and owls are some of the animal species that can help us to better understand hearing loss in humans, according to new research out of York University's Department of Physics & Astronomy in the Faculty of Science.

Team finds key to tuberculosis resistance

5 hours ago

The cascade of events leading to bacterial infection and the immune response is mostly understood. However, the molecular mechanisms underlying the immune response to the bacteria that causes tuberculosis ...

Mutation may cause early loss of sperm supply

6 hours ago

Brown University biologists have determined how the loss of a gene in male mice results in the premature exhaustion of their fertility. Their fundamental new insights into the complex process of sperm generation ...

No more bleeding for 'iron overload' patients?

8 hours ago

Hemochromatosis (HH) is the most common genetic disorder in the western world, and yet is barely known. Only in the US 1 in 9 people carry the mutation (although not necessarily the disease).

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.