Personal stem cell banks could be staple of future health care

Drs. Xiao-Dong Chen and Qian Wang of The University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio are members of the research team that discovered a young microenvironment could stimulate old stem cells to expand more rapidly. Credit: UT Health Science Center San Antonio

Old stem cells can be rejuvenated by being placed in a young microenvironment, research from The University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio shows. This raises the possibility that patients' own stem cells may one day be rescued and banked to treat their age-related diseases.

Stem cells are that have the potential to convert into bone, muscle, , , and other body cells and tissues. It's no wonder medical science seeks to utilize these versatile cells to restore tissues deteriorated by age, disease or injury.

Older stem cells are not as robust as young ones, however — a challenge to clinicians who seek to use patients' own stem cells to treat age-related diseases.

"The number and quality of those cells decline with age, that is very clear," said Xiao-Dong Chen, M.D., Ph.D., a stem cell researcher at the UT Health Science Center. "And, using the patient's own cells can impact results."

Dr. Chen's team recently made a discovery in mice that, if translated to humans, could solve this predicament.

Old cells expand when grown on a young scaffold of tissue

Dr. Chen suspected that giving stem cells a youthful environment for growth would cause them to regenerate faster. His team extracted mesenchymal stem cells from the bone marrow of 3-month-old mice and 18-month-old mice. The group also obtained extracellular matrix (ECM) from mice of both ages. ECM is a scaffold of connective tissue, such as collagen, which constitutes a majority of the body's structure.

The lab team seeded half of the older stem cells on ECM from the 3-month-old mice and half on ECM from the 18-month-old mice. Likewise, half of the young stem cells were seeded on the young ECM and half were seeded on the old ECM.

Young and old cells showed a 16.1-fold and 17.1-fold expansion, respectively, when grown on ECM from young mice, compared to a 4.1-fold and 3.8-fold expansion when grown on ECM from old mice.

Finding confirmed in rodent implants

Next, under the skin of , Dr. Chen's group implanted artificial scaffolds seeded with stem cells of both ages that had been grown on young or old ECM. These were left to grow for eight weeks. The researchers targeted bone formation. When the implants were removed, the team found that old cells that had been grown on a young ECM produced just as much bone as young cells, while old cells grown on an old ECM produced no bone. The results were published in the FASEB Journal earlier this year.

"If this research transfers successfully to clinical application in humans, we could establish personal stem cell banks," Dr. Chen said. "We would collect a small number of older stem cells from patients, put those into our young microenvironment to rescue them — increasing their number and quality — then deliver them back into the patient."

This stem cell rescue and infusion could be done as often as disease treatment requires it, he said. The next step is to repeat the study in human and ECM.

Dr. Chen, an associate professor of comprehensive dentistry in the Health Science Center Dental School, discussed the finding at the Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence conference (SENS, http://www.sens.org/conferences/sens5) held at Queens' College in Cambridge, U.K.

Provided by University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio

5 /5 (2 votes)
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Stem cells grow fully functional new teeth

Jul 13, 2011

(Medical Xpress) -- Researchers from Japan recently published a paper in PLoS One describing their successful growth and transplantation of new teeth created from the stem cells of mice.

Matrix fragments trigger fatal excitement

Dec 29, 2008

Shredded extracellular matrix (ECM) is toxic to neurons. Chen et al. reveal a new mechanism for how ECM demolition causes brain damage. The study will appear in the December 29, 2008 issue of The Journal of ...

Molecule dictates how stem cells travel

Jan 14, 2006

U.S. researchers have defined a molecule that dictates how blood stem cells travel to the bone marrow and establish blood and immune cell production.

Extracting stem cells from fat for tissue regeneration

May 03, 2011

Stem cells extracted from body fat may pave the way for the development of new regenerative therapies including soft tissue reconstruction following tumor removal or breast mastectomy surgery, the development of tissue-engineered ...

Recommended for you

Leeches help save woman's ear after pit bull mauling

Apr 18, 2014

(HealthDay)—A pit bull attack in July 2013 left a 19-year-old woman with her left ear ripped from her head, leaving an open wound. After preserving the ear, the surgical team started with a reconnection ...

New pain relief targets discovered

Apr 17, 2014

Scientists have identified new pain relief targets that could be used to provide relief from chemotherapy-induced pain. BBSRC-funded researchers at King's College London made the discovery when researching ...

User comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

amiele
not rated yet Nov 02, 2011
I highly respect the work that Drs. Xiao-Dong Chen and Qian Wang are doing. However, storing your adult stem cells is already being done by American CryoStem. You can store you adult cells now at any age for your future health. visit their web site.