Georgia Researchers Develop Vehicle for Delivering Stem Cells to Injured Muscles
ATLANTA, GA. – August 15, 2018 (news.gatech.edu) Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology have developed a vehicle for delivering stem cells to injured muscles in elderly patients. The story is reported online at news.gatech.edu.*
Stem cell treatments have long proven effective in treating patients with injured muscles, but elderly patients have consistently been more difficult to treat. Their immune systems attack the stem cells and release chemicals that make it nearly impossible for the cells to reach the damaged tissue.
“Any muscle injury is going to attract immune cells,” said Young Jang, an assistant professor in Georgia Tech’s School of Biological Sciences and one of the principal investigators in the new study. “Typically, this would help muscle stem cells repair damage. But in aged or dystrophic muscles, immune cells lead to the release of a lot of toxic chemicals, like cytokines and free radicals, that kill the new stem cells.”
Only about 1 percent to 20 percent of injected stem cells make it to damaged tissue, and the cells that do make it arrive in a weakened state. Jang and fellow researchers Woojin Han and Andres Garcia set out to find a vehicle for delivering the stem cells that would protect the cells long enough for them to work inside the damaged tissue. They engineered a molecular matrix, a hydrogel, to send muscle satellite cells directly to injured muscle tissue in elderly patients.
When tested in mice, the hydrogel successfully protected the stem cells from destructive immune responses and delivered the cells to aged muscle tissue to boost the healing process. The hydrogel vehicle was also successful in mice with tissue deficiencies similar to Duchene muscular dystrophy. The researchers hope their work progresses and becomes a viable treatment option, not only for elderly injured patients but for muscular dystrophy patients, as well.
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