Human body is miraculous creation of God. Our body is equipped with an immune system to protect from invading pathogenic organism. Not only is this, the regeneration and repairing capacity of human body great. Using the vast knowledge and driven by inborn curiosity, us humans are always exploring more to make our life better. Same is the case when it comes to treating and battling diseases. Here comes our focus point in this article.
With the advances in the field of genetics, molecular biology, and genetic engineering, researchers are exploring better therapeutic strategies for many diseases including deadly cancer and genetically inherited diseases. Stem cell technology is a hot topic in research area nowadays. Manipulating the natural potential of stem cells in humans can be a vital tool for the treatment of cancer and many genetic disorders.
What are stem cells?
Human body contains ‘undifferentiated’ or unspecialized cells in the bone marrow. Unlike all the other differentiated or specified cell types of body, these stem cells do not transform into any of these cell types unless and until needed. This property makes them a vital cell type. In addition to this, these stem cells are ‘pluripotent’-they can transform or differentiate into many different types of cells. This potential of stem cells is under research trails that introducing the healthy bone marrow stem cells in a patient can treat leukemia and other congenital disorders. Adult stem cells are found in umbilical cord, placenta and bone marrow. At the embryonic stage, the differentiation potential of embryonic stem cells is even more than the adult stem cells.
Like many other therapeutic strategies such as genetically engineered recombinant antibodies, monoclonal antibodies and targeted drug therapy, the stem cell technology is in pre-clinical trials. Yet the hopes are high to make stem cell technique a common therapeutic practice in the future. Here, we will discuss the advances in stem cell technology till date.
Stem Cells For Tissue Regeneration
Mesenchymal stem cells MSCs are isolated from mesenchyma cells, bone marrow, and adipose tissues. These cells process differentiation potential into the mesodermal layer, chondrocytes, and osteoblasts. Moreover, these MSCs are found great as immune system modulators.
These cells, themselves are marked with surface receptors CD70, CD105, and CD90. These mesenchymal stem cells have pro-angiogenic properties. Through their interactions with dendritic cells as well as secretion of cytokines, these stem cells are beneficial for tissues regeneration. This will be helpful in alleviating cardiac, neural, spinal cord injury and inflammatory diseases.
The trails began in the year 2010. Geron Corporation transplanted oligo-dendrocyte precursor in patients with spinal cord injuries. RIKEN research institute of Japan performed successful pluripotent stem cell’s based therapy for treating age-related muscular degeneration.
Developing Stem Cells Growth Factors And Peptides
Directly introducing stem cells in a patient’s body have certain risks associated such as tumor formation. One alternate strategy is to introduce stem cell activating growth factors and peptides in the patient body. In fact, bone morphogenetic proteins BMPs along with bone-forming peptides-3 have been shown to stimulate and enhance bone regeneration by MSCs.
Engineering Stem Cells With Nano-Materials
Exploring alternate and better ways of introducing foreign genes into a patient body has been a focus point. The main reasons are lower efficiency and oncogenic risks with both viral and nonviral techniques.
Nanotechnology is a rapidly developing research area. Nanoparticles are small particles composed of calcium phosphate, chitosan, cationic polymers, and mesoporous silica. Introducing genes coated on these nano-particles will be a vital tool for programming stem cells.
Recently, researchers have used graphene oxide polyethyleneimine nano-complexes for gene delivery to program stem cells. If went successful, these nano-particles will be an efficient tool for reprogramming stem cells.
Enhancing The Therapeutic Efficiency of Stem Cells
Every tissue in the human body is comprised of cells and extracellular matrix. This matrix is no matter, significant to support cellular growth and proliferation. Also, it helps in nutrient exchange and supply to cells.
Maintaining intact extracellular matrix (ECM) is required to promote tissue regeneration. Or else, artificial ECM is transplanted which are composed of biomaterials.
The biomaterial is basically a scaffold, and porous to allow cellular integration and proliferation. Moreover, the biomaterial should be biodegradable that it can easily be degraded and replaced with healthy cellular matrix after the successful cellular proliferation. The other examples of such biodegradable biomaterials are collagen, gelatin, fibrin some others.
In initial trials and experiments, a combination of biomaterial scaffold and stem cells have been used by the scientists to heal skin wounds. Preclinical trials have applied neural stem cells for the treatment of neurodegenerative disorders such as Parkinson. The results suggest that combining the biomaterial matrix with stem cells is not enough. To regenerate the nerve cells with proper functioning, these must be provided with stimulatory cytokines, adhesive surface, and growth factors.
3 Dimensional (3D) Bioprinting technique
To maintain the regeneration capacity of implanted stem cells in the body, 3D bioprinting technique is under research trail. This technique involves the formation of a 3D scaffold of biomaterials for the proper proliferation of stem cells.
This technique is under the spotlight in areas of genetic engineering. Using this technique will enable the researchers to position the stem cells into specific locations in the body. This will eventually lead to the development of multi-layered tissue by these stem cells.
For 3D scaffold, bioinks are needed for printing of implanted stem cells into that scaffold. Hydrogels mostly serve as bioink. Others are alginate, fibrin, polyethylene glycol and collagen, etc.
One of the recent preclinical trials has reported the application of light processing stereolithography 3D technique. This was to produce biodegradable polymeric vascular tissue grafts.
The Bottom Line
Biomedical engineering and genetic engineering are striving in for advancements and improvements in stem cells technology. If went successful, this technique will be an effective treatment strategy for tissue repair and regeneration of cells. A deeper understanding of tissue and stem cells is required for the successful implication of this technique. However, the hopes are high that stem cells technology, sooner or later, will alleviate many genetic defects and diseases including the deadly leukemic cancer.
Sehrish Aslam is an article writer and blogger. After completing graduation in biotechnology majors, she is serving as an assistant professor of the relevant subject and writes articles for blogs.