Scientists and researchers have been quite successful in identifying, growing and differentiating stem cells and developing effective stem cell therapies. But now, especially as many clinical trials are moving beyond animal testing to human testing, it’s important to consider the best methods of delivery.
In considering which method is best, the hope is always to help cells survive, integrate appropriately into the human body, limit unpredictable cellular behaviour and, whenever possible, limit recovery time. Of course, the method of delivery is dependent on what disease, condition, or ailment is being treated.
Surgical techniques are still widely used, but below you’ll find five non-invasive methods to deliver stem cell therapies.
For a long time, skin grafting was the most practical, feasible and effective technique used to treat major skin injuries, whether it be from a burn, an infection, or broken skin from a bone fracture. But, given the number of people suffering from thermal injuries alone (approximately 130,000 in the UK), and the limited number of skin donors, cell sheets have emerged as an effective treatment.
One example is EpiDex autologous cellular sheets, which are comprised of outer root sheath keratinocytes. They have been successfully used to treat chronic wounds like leg ulcers. In a 4-year follow up, 74% of patients reported complete wound healing.
Cell sheets aren’t the only innovative method for treating skin wounds as mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) are being delivered topically. Different than systemic delivery, topical delivery – including fibrin spray and incorporation in a collagen sponge – requires that the MSCs migrate into the wound via non-vascular routes.
Celixir has its own investigational topical gel, Tendoncel. It contains platelet lysate and has completed European Phase 2 trials for tennis elbow and will begin Phase 3 trials soon. When applied to the skin, the gel regenerates injured tendons.
While injection parameters have been studied extensively for drug delivery, these can’t be directly applied to stem cell-based therapies. With this in mind, Marcel Daadi, associate scientist and director of the Regenerative Medicine and Aging Unit at Texas Biomedical Research Institute’s Southwest National Primate Research Center, developed a method of delivering stem cells accurately and with low invasiveness to treat Parkinson’s patients.
The technique was tested on baboons and, using an MRI, he and his team were able to watch – in real time – how the cells were dispersed after injection into the brain. This approach will help guide other methods and improve the safety and effectiveness of stem cell transplants.
In exploring less invasive delivery methods, researchers in the Department of Neurobiology and Anatomy at Drexel University College of Medicine in Philadelphia compared the effectiveness of cell delivery via lumbar puncture compared to direct injection. They found that both methods reduced the injury size and that LP resulted in localised accumulation of cells at the injury site as well as neuroprotection.
Across the board, new tools and techniques are needed to deliver cells from donor to patient in order for stem cell therapies to be widely adopted in clinical settings. These new, innovative delivery methods are leading the way in maximising cell survival and localising treatments.
Keep up with Celixir’s blog for the latest stem cell therapy and regenerative medicine news.