Regenerative medicine is stirring a revolution in the healthcare industry by offering the promise of cures for a variety of stubborn human ailments: diabetes, cancer, spinal cord injuries.
But scientists have been encountering some significant hurdles in managing what had initially been viewed in research circles as the deliberately volatile and precarious nature of the new treatments.
Stanford University researchers may have discovered a type of gel that allows scientists to help direct cell development to produce its intended objective:
“We just don’t know how to efficiently and effectively grow massive numbers of stem cells and keep them in their regenerative state,” said Sarah Heilshorn, an associate professor of materials science and engineering at Stanford University. “This has prevented us from making more progress in creating therapies.”
A special gel may provide the key to allowing cells to remain preserved in a viably neural state to mature into different cell types.
Heilshorn’s team developed polymer-based gels that allow cells to grow in three dimensions as opposed to two. The arrangement involves using less than 1 percent of the space used in current laboratories. The cell layers are a millimeter high, about the thickness of a dime, according to Stanford News.
“For a 3-D culture, we need only a 4-inch-by-4-inch plot of lab space, or about 16 square inches. A 2-D culture requires a plot four feet by four feet, or about 16 square feet,” more than 100-times the space, according to Chris Madl, a bioengineering doctoral graduate on Heilshorn’s team.
The biological structure requires fewer nutrients and less energy use. It also allows the cells’ long molecules to remain in contact with each other to preserve communication.
“The simple act of touching is key to communication between stem cells and to maintaining ‘stemness.’ If stem cells can’t remodel the gels, they can’t touch one another,” Madl said.
“The stem cells don’t exactly die if they can’t touch, but they lose that ability to regenerate that we really need for therapeutic success,” Heilshorn said.
Heilshorn wants to create gels to inject into patients’ bodies. “There’s this convergence of biological knowledge and engineering principles in stem cell research that has me hopeful we might finally actually solve some big problems,” she said.
AMI Provides Solutions
While we at Advanced Medical Integration don’t necessarily promote or advocate the use of regenerative medicine for this purpose, we provide this information to chiropractors as a way of acknowledging the potential.
Contact us today to learn more about what the future holds for you.