Interest in Stem Cell Therapy Is Rising

If anything, enthusiasm for stem cell technology can be too great. For example, earlier in the year, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration decided to take a closer look at clinics that provide stem cell treatments. The FDA hopes that closer regulation may not only curb unproven therapies, but also enhance confidence in truly effective interventions.

Researchers are excited about a new stem cell approach to repairing heart damage. This approach, developed by Amit Patel, M.D., director, Clinical Regenerative Medicine, University of Utah, involves the selective expansion of bone marrow cells. In the IxCELL-DCM trial (to assess the efficacy of the Ixomyocel T cell therapy), which included Utah Senator Ralph Okerlund, researchers observed a 37% reduction in the number of hospitalizations or deaths related to heart disease and heart failure.

Another promising approach is the possibility of combining regenerative medicine and organ transplantation. This approach is being developed by Maria Cristina Piña-Barba, Ph.D., a researcher at the Institute of Material Research, National Autonomous University of Mexico. Her team is concentrating on blending different stem cell techniques to regenerate the damaged parts of various organs like kidneys and heart. The number of kidneys required each year in Mexico alone for transplant is approximately 12,431. While the demand for hearts is about 58, there is an increasing need for 7,396 corneas, 3 lungs, and 404 livers each year in the country.

One way to begin is by “decellularizing bovine bone,” said Dr. Piña-Barba. “We have also decellularized tracheas, kidneys, livers, and hearts.” When calcium is stripped from hard bone tissue, the result is a sponge of collagen. This sponge may then be seeded with stem cells.

“We give [the seeded sponge] the form of the organ needed, and in two months there is tissue formation,” continued Dr. Piña-Barba. “This process is a possible solution to tracheal disorders caused by … cancer, stenosis (abnormal narrowing) and traumas that can lead to respiratory diseases and even death.” These innovations will open new avenues for growth in the regenerative medicine market.