Programming Cells to Go Where They Are Needed

Another step on the way to regenerative medicine that can repair and rebuild specific tissues: "Stem cell therapies hold enormous potential to address some of the most tragic illnesses, diseases, and tissue defects world-wide. However, the inability to target cells to tissues of interest poses a significant barrier to effective cell therapy. To address this hurdle, [researchers] have developed a platform approach to chemically incorporate homing receptors onto the surface of cells. This simple approach has the potential to improve the efficacy of many types of cell therapies by increasing the concentrations of cells at target locations in the body. ... While conventional cell therapies that include local administration of cells can be useful, they are typically more invasive with limited potential for multiple doses. ... You can imagine, that when the targeted tissue is cardiac muscle, for example to treat heart attacks or heart failure, injecting the cells directly into the heart can be an invasive procedure and typically this approach can only be performed once. ... Using the platform the researchers created, the cells are prepared to travel directly to the area of interest after being injected through a common and much less invasive intravenous infusion method. ... the approach can be used to systemically target bone producing cells to the bone marrow to treat osteoporosis, cardiomyocytes to the heart to treat ischemic tissue, neural stem cells to the brain to treat Parkinson's disease, or endothelial progenitor cells to sites of peripheral vascular disease to promote formation of new blood vessels. The researchers concluded that, as the understanding of the mechanisms of cell trafficking grows, the ability to improve homing to specific tissues through engineered approaches should significantly enhance cell therapy."



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