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MIT bioengineer advances survival, promise of adult stem cells

MIT researchers have developed a technique to encourage the survival and growth of adult stem cells, a step that could help realize the therapeutic potential of such cells.

Adult stem cells, found in many tissues in the body, are precursor cells for specific cell types. For example, stem cells found in the bone marrow develop into blood cells, bone cells and other connective tissues, and neural stem cells develop into brain tissue.

Those stem cells hold great promise for treatment of injuries and some diseases, says MIT professor of biological engineering Linda Griffith.

Griffith is the senior author of a recent study showing that when presented in the right physical context, certain growth factors encourage the survival and proliferation of bone marrow mesenchymal stem cells grown outside of the body.

The work offers hope that one day, stem cells removed from a patient could be transplanted to an injury site and induced to grow into new, healthy tissue. The research appears in the January 18 online issue of Stem Cells.

Griffith's team focused on the potential for mesenchymal stem cells to grow into new bone in patients with bone cancer or severe bone injuries. Current treatment for such patients involves replacing the bone with either cadaver bone or, more commonly, a piece of the patient's hip bone.

Ideally, surgeons would like to be able to aspirate bone marrow from the hip, which is a much less painful and invasive process than removing bone, and transplant the stem cells from that marrow into the injury site.

Although patients' own marrow has been used successfully in certain situations, Griffith and her clinical collaborators believe that the inflammatory response following transplant may limit survival of cells under many clinical conditions.

To avoid that deadly response, Griffith and her team sought a way to manipulate the environment surrounding the cells to make conditions more
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Source:Massachusetts Institute of Technology


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