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Stem cell discovery could change vascular disease treatment

Friday May 10th, 2019

UK researchers have discovered a non-intrusive way to generate large quantities of stem cells using only a small amount of blood, it has been announced.

The team at Queen’s University Belfast and King’s College London (KCL) reveal today (9 May 2019) they also found the stem cells produced can generate and replace damaged cells within blood vessels.

They say this could prevent a range of vascular-related complications, including heart attacks, kidney disease, blindness and amputations in people with diabetes.

The preclinical study, published in Stem Cell Journals, showed that stem cells expressing the Endothelial Specific Molecule 1 (ESM1) gene have excellent regenerative potential and increase the blood-flow when they were tested in damaged blood vessels.

Principal investigator Dr Andriana Margariti, from the Wellcome-Wolfson Institute for Experimental Medicine at Queen’s University Belfast, described the findings as potentially revolutionary for how some blood vessel diseases are treated.

“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,” she said.

“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.”

The research team discovered that activating Endothelial Specific Molecule 1 (ESM1) in the stem cells could enhance the production and function of newly generating endothelial cells, which play a key role in several vascular diseases. Cell therapy can be used to repair damage through the transplantation of healthy endothelial cells.

Professor Alan Stitt, Dean of Innovation and Education at Queen’s University Belfast and co-author said: “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.”

Although the study focused on stem cells for vascular diseases, the researchers believe the same process could be used to produce stem cells for other organs, paving the way for further innovative treatments.

Vilà-González M, Kelaini S, Magee C et al. Enhanced Function of Induced Pluripotent Stem Cell-Derived Endothelial Cells Through ESM1 Signaling. Stem Cells Journals 9 May 2019

Tags: Heart Health | UK News

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