Nitric oxide seems to be showing up a fair bit of late in investigations of the biochemistry of stem cells and healing. Digging into the fundament is important - knowing the biochemistry of stem cells means knowing how to control stem cells, and that's the first step on a number of very useful roads. We have this from last month:
... a typical course of hyperbaric oxygen treatments increases by eight-fold the number of stem cells circulating in a patient's body. ... We reproduced the observations from humans in animals in order to identify the mechanism for the hyperbaric oxygen effect. We found that hyperbaric oxygen mobilizes stem/progenitor cells because it increases synthesis of a molecule called nitric oxide in the bone marrow. This synthesis is thought to trigger enzymes that mediate stem/progenitor cell release.
Following that, more interesting research in the past few days:
The problem is rooted in the body's response to vascular injury. The bone marrow churns out cells crucial to repairing the damaged lining of blood vessels. But sometimes they fail to report for duty.
"Part of the defect we think is occurring in diabetic patients is these cells do not carry out appropriate repair, and therefore these patients are at higher risk for cardiovascular disease and other complications," Segal said.
UF researchers isolated these repair cells from blood samples drawn from patients with diabetes and chronic kidney disease and studied them in the laboratory. The cells were unable to move about normally. But when nitric oxide gas was added, Segal said, the cells lost their rigidity, becoming suppler, and their ability to move dramatically improved.
In the body, nitric oxide occurs naturally. It helps the repair cells move out of the bone marrow where they are made, and it opens blood vessels and improves the uptake of oxygen. Patients with diabetes, however, commonly have low levels of nitric oxide.
"We went on to show that actually what's happening is nitric oxide is affecting the skeleton, or scaffold of the cell, and by adding nitric oxide we're able to rearrange the scaffold," Segal said. "When we rearrange the scaffold, the cells are able to migrate. The benefit of this is that when cells have improved movement they are able to repair the endothelium (the lining of the blood vessels) better and perhaps prevent atherosclerosis."
Diabetes acts somewhat like accelerated aging in a number of ways, and has been used as a proxy for aging research in the past. Methodologies that offer the possibility of restoring failing stem cells to duty, or enhancing the capabilities of stem cells in the healthy, are intriguing, to say the least.
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