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Researchers Switch Stem Cell Production "On"

Scientists at the Imperial College in London have found a way to turn "on" the production of specific adult stem cells in bone marrow, releasing the new cells into the bloodstream. This technique, according to a report on the college Web site, could potentially be used to boost the body's ability to repair itself, including repair heart damage or mend a broken bone. The study was published in the journal Cell Stem Cell.

When an individual is inflicted with a disease or an injury, their bone marrow mobilizes different types of stem cells to help repair and regenerate tissue. This research has shown that it could be possible to boost the body’s ability to repair itself and speed repair by using different drug combinations to send specific kinds of stem cells into action. In the new study, as reported by the college, researchers tricked the bone marrow of healthy mice into releasing two types of adult stem cells—mesenchymal stem cells, which can turn into bone and cartilage and that can also suppress the immune system, and endothelial progenitor cells, which can make blood vessels and therefore have the potential to repair damage in the heart.

This study, funded by the British Heart Foundation and the Wellcome Trust, is reportedly the first to selectively mobilize mesenchymal stem cells and endothelial progenitor cells from the bone marrow. Previous studies have mobilizes the haematopoietic type of stem cell, which creates new blood cells.

This technique is currently used in bone marrow transplants to boost the numbers of haematopoietic stem cells in a donor’s bloodstream. The researchers were able to choose which groups of stem cells the bone marrow released by using two different therapies. Ultimately, the researchers hope this new technique could be used to repair and regenerate tissue by mobilizing the necessary stem cells. The researchers also anticipate this technique could be effective against autoimmune diseases, where the body is attacked by its own immune system, by kicking the mesenchymal stem cells into action. These stem cells are able to suppress the immune system.

In addition to the present work, the researchers reportedly are interested in investigating whether aging or other diseases affect the bone marrow's ability to produce different kinds of adult stem cells to determine if the new technique might help reinvigorate the body's repair mechanisms in older people, to help them fight disease and injury.

While the present research is targeted to major body repairs, the personal care industry might consider this "turning on" of stem cells a technique of interest in the industry's study and work against mechanisms of aging.

For more information, visit the college Web site at www3.imperial.ac.uk.

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