Advanced Cell Technology announced today in a story printed in Nature Methods that the company has developed a method for treating vascular damage using human embryonic stem (hES) cells.
The researchers directed the stem cells into becoming what they believe are hemangioblasts, the blood vessel precursor cells, although other teams will have to replicate this for it to be accepted. When injected into the body, these hemangioblasts were capable of locating the damaged tissue and repairing it.
"When injected into the bloodstream, they homed to the other side of the body and repaired damaged vasculature within 24 to 48 hours," Robert Lanza, M.D., Vice President of Research & Scientific Development at ACT, said. "For example, we injected the cells into mice with damaged retinas due to diabetes or other eye injury. The cells (labeled green) migrated to the injured eye, and incorporated and lit-up the entire damaged vasculature. The cells are really smart, and amazingly, knew not to do anything in uninjured eyes."
When the cells were injected into animals that had damage to their retina due to diabetes or ischemia-reperfusion injury (lack of adequate blood flow) of the retina, the cells homed to the site of injury and showed robust reparative function of the entire damaged vasculature within 24-48 hours. The cells showed a similar regenerative capacity in animal models of both myocardial infarction (50% reduction in mortality rate) and hind limb ischemia, with restoration of blood flow to near normal levels.
This research shows great promise for treating a variety of injuries and illnesses. We'll have to wait to see how the politics and ethics of using hES cells plays out. Hopefully, someone will find a way to duplicate these results using adult stem cells.