Stem cells have the unique ability to turn into any type of human cell, opening up all sorts of therapeutic possibilities for some of the world’s incurable diseases and conditions. The problem facing scientists is how to encourage stem cells to turn into the particular type of cell required to treat a specific disease.
But researchers at the University of Manchester’s School of Materials and Faculty of Life Sciences have developed a web-like scaffold, coated with long-sugar molecules, that enhances stem-cell cultures to do just this. The scaffold is formed by a process known as electrospinning, creating a mesh of fibers that mimic structures that occur naturally within the body.
The team’s results—presented in the Journal of Biological Chemistry—are particularly promising, as the sugar molecules are presented on the surface of the fibers, retaining structural patterns important in their function. The sugars are also read by the stem cells grown on the surface, stimulating and enhancing the formation of neuronal cell types.
Lead author Catherine Merry, from Manchester’s Stem Cell Glycobiology group, says,
“These meshes have been modified with long, linear sugar molecules, which we have previously shown play a fundamental role in regulating the behavior of stem cells. By combining the sugar molecules with the fiber web, we hoped to use both biochemical and structural signals to guide the behavior of stem cells, in a similar way to that used naturally by the body. This is the Holy Grail of research into developing new therapeutics using stem cell technology.”
The group anticipates that the combination of the sugar molecules with the fiber web will aid both the growth of stem cells and the formation of different cell types from the stem cell population.
Possible applications include tissue engineering, where the meshes could support cells differentiating to form bone, liver, or blood vessels, for example. The meshes also have potential therapeutic implications in the treatment of diseases such as multiple osteochondroma (MO), a rare disease creating bony spurs or lumps caused by abnormal production of these sugar molecules.
Science of Stem Cells
The defining characteristics of stem cells are that they are capable of self-renewal, meaning they can divide numerous times and maintain their undifferentiated state, and they are multipotent, meaning they have the potential to change into or differentiate into several different cell types. Scientists and doctors are optimistic about the growing role of stem cells to treat serious diseases.
There are two basic subtypes of adult stem cells.
Hematopoeitic stem cells form blood cells and are typically found in bone marrow or umbilical cord blood.
Mesenchymal stem cells form connective tissues such as bone, tendons, muscles, fat, and nerves as well as liver and pancreatic cells. Mesenchymal stem cells are typically found in bone marrow or the dental pulp in teeth.
The Benefits of Storing Dental Stem Cells
Preserving your children's own dental stem cells is simple, painless and convenient.
These stem cells are found in baby teeth that are naturally coming out and in wisdom teeth, or other healthy teeth, that are being extracted.
Instead of having your dentist discard these valuable stem cells, or putting them under the pillow for the Tooth Fairy - consider how dental stem cells could one day help protect your family's health.
Similar to stem cells from umbilical cord blood, dental stem cells have the potential to be used in many medical applications.
They have already been used to regenerate dental bone and treat periodontal disease, and are currently being studied by researchers to help treat conditions such as diabetes, spinal cord injury, stroke, heart attack, Muscular Dystrophy, Parkinson's and Alzheimer's.
Dental Stem Cells - a new source of stem cells that are:
Plentiful and painless to collect - found in baby teeth naturally falling out or extracted teeth such as wisdom teeth
Affordable - the initial cost to store dental stem cells is about one third to one half the cost of storing umbilical cord blood
Non-controversial - adult stem cells, not embryonic
Precious - public banks don't exist for storing dental stem cells
Autologous - a perfect match since they're your child's own stem cells (so no risk of immunologic rejection)
Your child's dental stem cells may also match closely related relatives (siblings, parents, grandparents, uncles/aunts)
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