Posted on May 14, 2019, 5 p.m.
King’s College London and Queen’s University Belfast research has discovered a non-intrusive way to generate large quantities of stem cells from a small amount of blood that could revolutionise treatments for vascular and diabetes related cardiovascular diseases, as published in Stem Cells.
The technology can produce large amount of stems cells in a short time using only a blood small sample, the stem cells produced were found to be able to generate and replace damaged cells within blood vessels; treatment could help to prevent a range of vascular related complications in those with diabetes.
Dr. Andriana Margarit explains, "Being able to produce large quantities of stem cells from a few millilitres of blood in a short timeframe is truly ground-breaking. This could revolutionise how we treat a vast number of blood vessel diseases."
"Previously, this cell transformation process would have involved a skin biopsy, or large volumes of blood, which simply isn't viable for many patients as it is a risky process which can take a long recovery time."
"This study focused on stem cells for vascular diseases but the same process can be used to produce stem cells for a number of organs, including the brain and kidneys, which has huge implications for the future of healthcare."
Activating Endothelial Specific Molecule I in stem cells was found to enhance production and function of newly generating endothelial cells which play roles in a number of vascular diseases. Endothelial cells line blood vessels and act as a protective layer; as the top layer it is these cells that become damaged in CVD which is often accelerated in those with diabetes, and those with CVD and diabetes are more likely to suffer from blindness, heart attacks, and poor circulation due to their damaged endothelial cells.
"A major source of mortality among those with cardiovascular diseases, and especially patients with diabetes, is due to irreversible damage to their endothelial cells which can lead to blockage of blood flow to the heart, eyes, kidney and limbs."
"One in every two people with diabetes will die from a heart attack. Current treatment for diabetes is often limited to drugs that regulate sugars and fats in the blood, and hypertension, but unless the endothelial cells are repaired, unfortunately, the illness will continue to progress."
Stem cells expressing the ESM1 gene have been found to have incredible regenerative potential and to significantly increase blood flow when tested in damaged blood vessels. In cell therapy damaged can be repaired via transplantation of healthy endothelial cells.
Professor Alan Stitt explains: "Through the technology developed, we can readily produce stem cells to transplant to damaged blood vessels. We have discovered that activating the particular gene ESM1 will improve the production and function of endothelial cells, reversing the damaged cells. This is life-changing as the results have shown that repairing these cells can stop the progressive illnesses, which will prevent blindness and amputations."
"Cell transplantation has huge potential though it is not suitable for all vascular diseases such as coronary disease. Now we know how to generate and improve the function of these cells, we will focus on screening drugs to see which treatments will further improve the function of these cells and ultimately improve the lives of millions of people afflicted with these illnesses."
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