Scientists at the Texas Biomedical Research Institute have for the first time demonstrated that baboon embryonic stem cells can be programmed to completely restore a severely damaged artery. These early results show promise for eventually developing stem cell therapies to restore human tissues or organs damaged by age or disease.
"We first cultured the stem cells in petri dishes under special conditions to make them differentiate into cells that are the precursors of blood vessels, and we saw that we could get them to form tubular and branching structures, similar to blood vessels," said John L. VandeBerg, Ph.D., Texas Biomed's chief scientific officer.This finding gave VandeBerg and his team the confidence to do complex experiments to find out if these cells could actually heal a damaged artery. Human embryonic stem cells were first isolated and grown in 1998.
Three days later, the complex structure of the inner surface was beginning to regenerate, and by 14 days, the inside of the artery had been perfectly restored to its complex natural state. It went from a non-functional tube to a complex fully functional artery."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," VandeBerg said.
Stains for proteins that indicate functional characteristics showed that the healed artery had completely normal function and could do everything that a normal artery does in a healthy individual.
"This is evidence that we can harness stem cells to treat the gravest of arterial injuries," said VandeBerg.
Eventually, scientists hope to be able to take a skin cell or a white blood cell or a cell from any other tissue in the body, and induce it to become just like an embryonic stem cell in its capacity to differentiate into any tissue or organ."The vision of the future is, for example, for a patient with a pancreas damaged because of diabetes, doctors could take skin cells, induce them to become stem cells, and then grow a new pancreas that is just like the one before disease developed," VandeBerg said.
Texas Biomed, formerly the Southwest Foundation for Biomedical Research, is one of the world's leading independent biomedical research institutions dedicated to advancing health worldwide through innovative biomedical research. Located on a 200-acre campus on the northwest side of San Antonio, Texas Biomed partners with hundreds of researchers and institutions around the world, targeting advances in the fight against AIDS, hepatitis, malaria, parasitic infections and a host of other infectious diseases, as well as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, cancer, psychiatric disorders, and problems of pregnancy. For more information on Texas Biomed, go to www.TxBiomed.org, or call Joe Carey, Texas Biomed's Vice President for Public Affairs, at 210-258-9437.
Joseph Carey | EurekAlert!
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