One of the more promising applications for stem cells has been in the field of regenerative medicine, but ensuring long-term survival of the cells after a transplant is difficult. Now, an international team of researchers has developed a delivery method by which to introduce several compounds that help the cells both survive and successfully differentiate in vivo.
Scientists at Stockholm University and Uppsala University in Sweden, as well as the RIKEN Brain Science Institute in Japan and the Panum Institute at Copenhagen University in Denmark, looked at ways to improve stem cell-based treatments for neurological diseases such as Parkinson's. They came up with a type of silica nanoporous particle designed to deliver synthetic versions of key molecules needed by the stem cells to facilitate a successful transplant over the long run.
The team used the compounds Cintrofin and Gliafin, which are established peptide mimetics, or copies, of the ciliary neurotrophic factor and glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor; both of these growth factors, delivered via the newly developed mesoporous nanoparticles, fuel the viable application of the stem cells once they are in the body, according to the study published this month in the journal Stem Cell Translational Medicine.
"We demonstrated that delivering key molecules for the differentiation of stem cells in vivo with these particles enabled not only robust functional differentiation of motor neurons from transplanted embryonic stem cells but also improves their long-term survival," study co-director and Uppsala professor Elena Kozlova said, as quoted in a report from Stockholm University.
Like many techniques that depend on the creation of specially designed nanoparticles to deliver compounds, this method required the approach of two rather different fields of study: material science and regenerative medicine. But by combining the two, the team came up with an elegant solution to a problem faced for years in the development of stem cell treatments.
The team is now working with outside companies to commercialize the approach, according to the report, and allow for the reproduction of the technique in other labs.