"Welded" stem cells may help heal wounds
For many years now, scientists have been seeking methods of helping to heal chronic wounds such as those suffered by diabetics. One of the latest possible techniques involves re-engineering the membranes of stem cells, so that those cells essentially get welded together.
Led by Dr. Adam Perriman, a team at the UK's University of Bristol started with human mesenchymal stem cells (hMSCs). The scientists then modified the cells' membranes with an enzyme known as thrombin, which is a key ingredient in the wound-healing process.
When the treated cells were subsequently placed in a solution containing the blood protein fibrinogen, a natural hydrogel grew out from their membranes. In a process called extracellular matrix production, the gel joined the cells together, forming a three-dimensional cellular structure.
Because hMSCs are capable of becoming connective tissue, the hMSC/fibrinogen mixture could conceivably be applied to chronic wounds, forming a matrix that would allow them to heal. The solution might also find use as a surgical glue.
"One of the biggest challenges in cell therapies is the need to protect the cells from aggressive environments after transplantation," says Perriman. "We have developed a completely new technology that allows cells to grow their own artificial extracellular matrix, enabling cells to protect themselves and allowing them to thrive after transplantation."
A paper on the research was recently published in the journal Nature Communications.
Source: University of Bristol