Researchers from North Carolina State University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the first affiliated hospital at Zhengzhou University have developed a synthetic version of a cardiac stem cell.The material not only allows to regenerate cardiac tissue but also reduces risks associated with stem cell therapies, has a better conservation stability and the technology is generalizable to other types of stem cells.
Stem cells facilitate the endogenous repair of damaged tissues, by secreting “paracrine factors” (proteins and genetic materials), but they carry certain risks of tumor growth as immune rejection, which does not happen with the synthetic material. In addition, the cells themselves are very fragile, require careful cold storage up to -196 ° C and a complicated classification process before being used.
Stem cells developed in the laboratory were designed to regenerate heart tissue but could be used for other needs, in other organs, according to Ke Cheng, an associate professor of molecular biomedical sciences at North Carolina State University, an associate professor in the program. joint biomedical engineering at NC State and UNC and adjunct assistant professor at the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy, who led the scientific team author of the research published in Nature.
From poly (lactic-co-glycolic acid) or PLGA, a biodegradable and biocompatible polymer, a microparticle was created that imitates cells. The researchers then collected the cultured human stem cell growth factor proteins and added them to the PLGA. Finally, they covered the particle with the cardiac stem cell membrane.
Testing the microparticle, and in comparison with ordinary cardiac stem cells, promoted the growth of cardiac muscle cells in equal measure. In addition, the microparticle was tested in a mouse with myocardial infarction and found that its ability to bind to cardiac tissue and promote growth after a heart attack was comparable to that of cardiac stem cells. Due to its structure, CMMP cannot be replicated, reducing the risk of tumor formation.
In addition, synthetic stem cells are much more durable than human stem cells, can tolerate freezing and thawing. Nor do they have to be derived from the patient’s own cells. And the manufacturing process can be used with any type of stem cell.
“We hope this could be a first step towards a truly stem cell product off the shelf that would allow people to receive beneficial stem cell therapies when needed, without costly delays,” says Cheng.