Friday, 11 January 2013

Baboon study shows embryonic stem cells can treat cardiac damage

The findings of a study published a few days ago from researchers at Texas Biomedical Research Institute, give great hope to heart attack sufferers. The scientists demonstrated in an animal model (baboon) that it is possible to use embryonic stem cells to restore full function to severely damaged arteries. 

John L. VandeBerg, one of the key researchers, says they first extracted embryonic stem cells (ESCs) and cultured them in vitro in petri-dishes. They then successfully managed to differentiate them into blood vessel precursor cell. They later found out that they could use these cells to form tubular and branching-like structures that resembled real blood vessels.

After their initial success, they decided to take their experiments one step further. They started by partially removing two arteries. One for stem cell testing and one to act as the control group.

Picture of a human embryonic stem cell colony

The researchers first removed all the cells lining in the the inside surface from a segment of the first artery and replaced them with ESCs. The two ends of the artery were then connected to a bioreactor that pumped fluid trough it. The outside of the artery was also bathed in a special fluid.

All this was done to emulate a normal inside the body environment. Two weeks later the researchers found out that the ESCs had started regenerating the inner surface by developing into the original cells. Two weeks later the ESCs had fully replaced the removed cells and the damage seemed to be fully restored. Further testing showed that the artery was fully functional. It was virtually indistinguishable from a normal, healthy artery.

Vandeberg explains that their study has the potential to pave the way for treating patients with heart damage:

"Just think of what this kind of treatment would mean to a patient who had just suffered a heart attack as a consequence of a damaged coronary artery. And this is the real potential of stem cell regenerative medicine -- that is, a treatment with stem cells that regenerates a damaged or destroyed tissue or organ," and added that their experiment indicates that stem cells can be used for treating even the most severe arterial injuries.

As for the control group, it simply confirmed that it was the ESCs that were responsible for the tissue regeneration. The second artery was processed in the exact same way, and two weeks later no healing had occurred.

-The results were published  in the January 10, 2013 issue of the Journal of Cellular and Molecular Medicine.

- The Texas Biomedical Research Institute in located on a 200-acre campus on the northwest side of San Antoni. They have many research programs on many conditions including: AIDS, cancer, diabetes, hepatitis, malaria, obesity, parasitic infections , pregnancy complications, psychiatric disorders,cardiovascular disease.


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