Stem cells may one day be used to treat hypothyroidism


Hypothyroidism is a relatively common hormonal disorder where the thyroid gland produces too little thyroid hormone. In Western countries, hypothyroidism affects approximately 0.4% of the population, while a milder subclinical form affects a further 4.3 to 8.5% of people. Worldwide, up to 1 in 3000 babies are born with hypothyroidism (congenital hypothyroidism). A new study published in Cell Stem Cell describes the generation of functional thyroid tissue from mouse and human stem cells, providing an important step toward using stem cells to treat hypothyroidism. (more…)

Stem cells could regenerate cartilage lost through injury or disease


A new study shows that a type of stem cell found in umbilical cord blood, known as mesenchymal stem cells, has the potential to regenerate cartilage which has been damaged by injury or diseases such as osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis is a common joint disease, affecting approximately 3.8% of people worldwide and almost 15% of people over the age of 60.

In the study, published online in the journal Stem Cells Translational Medicine, scientists obtained mesenchymal stem cells from human umbilical cord blood. They then supplemented the stem cells with a gel containing hyaluronic acid, a type of molecule normally found in cartilage and connective tissue. The mixture of stem cells and hyaluronic acid was transplanted into knees of miniature pigs which had sustained knee injuries. Twelve weeks after the treatment, macroscopic and microscopic analysis showed greater and more complete regeneration of cartilage compared with injured knees which did not receive the stem cell transplant. In the knees receiving the stem cells, the surface of the injury sites were relatively smooth as in a healthy joint, and cells in the treated area appeared similar to cells in the surrounding normal cartilage. Furthermore, there were no signs of rejection or infection in any of the animals.

Mesenchymal stem cells from cord blood are readily obtained and can be stored long-term, thus providing an attractive alternative to conventional knee and hip replacement surgeries. In recent years, the cartilage regeneration potential of mesenchymal stem cells has been investigated in rats and rabbits. The current study provides further support for such treatments using a larger animal that is physiologically similar to humans. According to the authors, the results in pigs provide a stepping stone to future clinical trials in humans.

Kidneys grown from stem cells may provide an alternative to donor organs


The number of patients requiring kidney transplants continues to grow, due to the increasing rate of kidney disease and the constant shortage of donor organs. In Canada and the United States, there are currently about 105,000 people in need of a kidney transplant. However, fewer than 20,000 people will receive a new kidney each year. The number of deaths worldwide from chronic kidney disease more than doubled between 1990 and 2013, increasing from 409,000 to 956,000 during that time. Now, two recent studies published in prestigious journals show that it may one day be possible to grow transplantable kidneys from stem cells. (more…)

A new stem cell transplant technique may cure sickle cell disease in adults


A recently completed Phase I/II clinical trial shows that a novel stem cell transplant procedure may provide a cure for adults suffering from sickle cell disease. Also known as sickle cell anemia, the disease is a genetically inherited blood disorder caused by a defect in hemoglobin, the molecule which carries oxygen in red blood cells. The defect causes red blood cells to become crescent shaped (“sickled”), severely affecting their ability to carry oxygen and circulate throughout the body. Patients with sickle cell disease suffer decreased quality of life while facing an increased risk of death. Acute and chronic health problems include infections, severe pain attacks (“sickle cell crisis”), organ damage, and stroke. Almost 300,000 children are born with sickle cell disease each year around the world, mostly in sub-Saharan Africa. In North America, the disease affects approximately one in 500 people of African descent. (more…)

Stem cell therapy may provide an alternative to liver transplants

liver cirrhosis

A normal, healthy liver has the remarkable capacity to repair and regenerate itself following damage. However, the liver can become irreversibly damaged in patients who develop cirrhosis of the liver or acute liver failure. Common causes of cirrhosis include hepatitis C, alcohol abuse, or fatty liver caused by obesity. A new study published in the journal Nature Cell Biology shows that a stem cell-based therapy may one day regenerate livers that have been damaged beyond their natural repair abilities. (more…)