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Stem Cell News Roundup 2018
December 2018

Throughout the last 12 months, we’ve seen major breakthroughs in regenerative medicine, including Celixir’s own IND application for Heartcel gaining approval from the United State’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

This sort of success was mirrored around the world, with researchers in Georgia, USA having found that stem cell therapies could decrease brain damage in stroke victims and researchers in China regrowing dental pulp with the help of stem cells harvested from baby teeth.

While it’s impossible to recount all of the successful studies and clinical trials from this year, we’ve put together a roundup of 2018’s most exciting headlines.

Top Stem Cell News Stories from 2018

Stem Cell Replacement Therapy Restored Patients’ Sight

In March of this year, two professors working together for the London Project to Cure Blindness took a massive step forward in reaching their goal.

In the study, patients suffering from age-related macular degeneration (AMD) who were unable to see underwent surgery to implant an embryonic stem cell ‘patch’ at the back of the eye that would restore vision. The first two patients who had the surgery have seen a massive improvement and both are now able to read clearly when, before, they were unable to even see a book, let alone the words contained within it.Those involved in the London Project to Cure Blindness hope that, within the next five years, the implant will be as common as cataract surgery, helping 600,000+ people suffering with AMD.

Stem Cells to Help Combat Parkinson’s Disease

While we won’t see cellular medicine emerging from the studies until 2023, clinical trials began in August of this year to test how ‘reprogrammed’ stem cells could help those battling Parkinson’s Disease. The transplant – in which induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS) help restore normal production of dopamine – was successfully tested in monkeys in 2017 and the clinical trial is the first of its kind.

Working Muscles Grown From Skin Stem Cells  

At the beginning of 2018, scientists from Duke University were able to grow muscles from skin cells by flooding them with a substance called Pax7. Once produced, scientists provided the muscle tissue with structural support and nourishment to help it function properly, enabling it to respond to chemical and electrical signals. They even implanted some of the muscle tissue into mice, where it began to integrate with pre-existing muscle.

While this hasn’t yet been tested in humans, it’s an exciting opportunity. In a press release, Professor Busac, who co-authored the study, said “With this technique, we can just take a small sample of non-muscle tissue, like skin or blood, revert the obtained cells to a pluripotent state, and eventually grow an endless amount of functioning muscle fibres to test.”

Functioning Human Kidney Grown in Mice

In an effort to see to what extend stem cells can be used to help repair kidneys, a team of researchers from Manchester University – for the first time ever – were able to develop human stem cells into a ‘mini-kidney’ by implanting human embryonic stem cells under the skin of mice.

After maturing for three months, this mini-kidney functioned as normal, filtering blood to produce urine inside its mouse host.

While this mini-kidney isn’t equivalent to a human kidney with just a few hundred nephrons compared to millions, it does show a great deal of promise for the future as millions of people worldwide are treated with dialysis for kidney disease each year.

Stem Cell Transplants Could Help Grow New Immune Systems

In August of 2018, a clinical trial led by Queen Mary University of London began, which is using stem cell transplants to help grow new immune systems in patients with Crohn’s Disease. The trial is a follow-up to another trial completed back in 2015. This time, lower doses of the treatment will be used.

In the trial, chemotherapy and hormone treatments are used to mobilise a patient’s stem cells which are then harvested from their blood. More chemotherapy is then used to wipe out their immune system before stem cells are re-introduced back into the body where they develop into new immune cells.

Current treatments for Crohn’s Disease, while sometimes effective, often require several surgeries and some patients don’t respond or lose responsiveness over time.  The hope of this trial, which is funded from a Medical Research Council and National Institute for Health Research partnership, is that by resetting patients’ immune systems, it could alter the course of the disease.

While it might not be a cure, it could help patients to respond to current treatments.

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