Last week on Friday, Lab Land attended the annual Regenerative Engineering & Medicine center get-together to hear about progress in this exciting area.
During his talk, Tony Kim of Georgia Tech mentioned a topic that Rose Eveleth recently explored in The Atlantic: why arenâ€™t doctors using amazing â€œnanorobotsâ€ yet? Or as Kim put it, citing a recent review, â€œSo many papers and so few drugs.â€
[A summary: scaling up is difficult, testing pharmacokinetics, toxicity and efficacy is difficult, and so is satisfying the FDA.]
TheÂ talks Friday emerged from REM seed grants; manyÂ paired an Emory medical researcher with a Georgia Tech biomedical engineer. All of these projects take on challenges in delivering regenerative therapies: getting cells or engineered particles to the right place in the body.
For example, cardiologist W. Robert Taylor discussed the hurdles his team had encountered in scaling up his cells-in-capsules therapies for cardiovascular diseases to pigs, in collaboration with Luke Brewster. The pre-pig phase of this research is discussed in more detail here and here. Read more
A paper from cardiologist Aloke Finn and colleagues (published Wednesday, Aug. 5 inÂ Nature Communications) describes how the protein CD163, produced by macrophages, puts the brakes on muscle repair after ischemic injury in mice. Here’s why we think this paper is interesting.
*Speculatively, there are connections to the recent wave of “young blood cures old body” parabiosis research. Increased CD163 is a marker of aging in humans. Maybe low levelsÂ of CD163 areÂ part of how young blood is restorative.
*Translational potential — it wouldn’t be too hard to make anÂ antibody against human CD163. Something that blocks CD163Â could possibly be used to treat muscle breakdown, whichÂ occurs in response to injury, inactivity and in diseases such as cancer and diabetes.
*Finn says his team was surprised to find that mice lacking CD163, tested in experiments where blood flow is restricted in one leg, showed increased blood vessel and muscle growth in the otherÂ leg. It looks like part of CD163’s roleÂ is to limit muscle regeneration to the site of injury. Read more
Iâ€™d like to highlight a paper in PLOS One from anesthesiologists Shan Ping Yu and Ling Weiâ€™s group that was published earlier this year. [Sorry for missing it then!] They are investigating potential therapies for stroke, long a frustrating area of clinical research. The â€œclot-bustingâ€ drug tPA remains the only FDA-approved therapy, despite decades of work on potential neuroprotective agents.
Yuâ€™s team takes a different tactic. They seek to bolster the brainâ€™s recovery powers after stroke by mobilizing endogenous progenitor cells. I will call this approach â€œstem cells lite.â€
PTH appears to encourage new neurons in recovery in a mouse model of ischemicÂ stroke. Green = recent cell division, red = neuronal marker
It is similar to that taken by cardiologistÂ Arshed Quyyumi and colleagues with peripheral artery disease: use a growthÂ factorÂ (GM-CSF), which is usually employed for another purpose, to get the bodyâ€™s own regenerative agents to emerge from the bone marrow.
In this case, Yuâ€™s team wasÂ using parathyroid hormone (PTH), which is an FDA-approved treatment for osteoporosis. They administered it, beginning one hour after loss of blood flow, in a mouse model of ischemic stroke. They foundÂ that daily treatment with PTH spurs production of endogenousÂ regenerative factors in the stroke-affected area of the brain. They observed both increased new neuron formation and sensorimotor functional recovery. However, PTH does not pass through the blood-brain barrier and does not change the size of the stroke-affected area, the researchers found.
The conclusion of the paper hints at their next steps:
As this is the first report on this PTH therapy for ischemic stroke for the demonstration of the efficacy and feasibility, PTH treatment was initiated at 1 hr after stroke followed by repeated administrations for 6 days. We expect that even more delayed treatment of PTH, e.g. several hrs after stroke, can be beneficial in promoting chronic angiogenesis and other tissue repair processes. This possibility, however, remains to be further evaluated in a more translational investigation.
One lab uses goopy alginate, another uses peptides that self-assemble intoÂ hydrogels. The objective is the same: protecting cells that are injected into the heart and making them feel like theyâ€™re at home.
Around the world, thousands of heart disease patients have been treated in clinical studies with some kind of cell-based therapy aimed at regenerating the heart muscle or at least promoting its healing. This approach is widely considered promising, but its effectiveness is limited in that most of the cells donâ€™t stay in the heart or die soon after being introduced.Â [UPDATE: Nice overview of cardiac cell therapy controversy in July 18Â Science]
Biomedical engineer Mike Davis and his colleagues recently published a paper in Biomaterials describing hydrogels that can encourage cardiac progenitor cells injected into the heart to stay in place. The first author is former graduate student Archana Boopathy, who recently started her postdoctoral work at MIT. Davis has been working with these self-assembling peptides for some time: see this 2005 Circulation paper he published during his own postdoctoral work with Richard Lee at Harvard.
How do these hydrogels keep cells from washing away? We donâ€™t have to go much beyond the name: think Jello. Researchers design snippets of proteins (peptides) that, like Jello*, form semisolid gels under the right conditions in solution. Helpfully, they also are customized with molecular tools for making cardiac progenitor cells happy. Read more
Stem cell research is on the verge of impacting many elements of medicine, but scientists haven’t yet worked out the processes needed to manufacture sufficient quantities of stem cells for diagnostic and therapeutic purposes.
Todd McDevitt and Robert Nerem
The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded $3 million to Georgia Tech to fund a center that will develop engineering methods for stem cell production. The program’s co-leaders are Todd McDevitt, PhD, an associate professor in the Georgia Tech/Emory Department of Biomedical Engineering and Robert Nerem, director of the Emory/Georgia Tech Center for Regenerative Medicine (GTEC), which will administer the award.
â€œSuccessfully integrating knowledge of stem cell biology with bioprocess engineering and process development is the challenging goal of this program,â€ says McDevitt.
Posted on August 20, 2010