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Stem Cells Lead To New Regenerative Medicines

Exosomes

It is possible for stem cells to be used in regenerative medicine and researchers are considering how transplanted stem cells can be used to help with a range of different injuries.

One such are is with spinal cord injuries. Here the trick is to induce transplanted stem cells to morph into neurons. With this, scientists working at Tufts University are exploring ways to induce human mesenchymal stem cells (derived from bone marrow) to differentiate into neuron-like cells. To achieve this, the researchers are treating neurons with protein based particles called exosomes. Exosomes play a key role in cellular communication.

Exosomes are cell-derived vesicles that are present in many and perhaps all biological fluids, including blood and urine. Stem cells are undifferentiated biological cells that can differentiate into specialized cells.

In studies, the research group have used exosomes taken from PC12 cells (these are neuron-like progenitor cells, taken from rats) at various stages of differentiation. They have found that, in a controlled way, the exosomes can cause stem cells to transform into neuron-like cells.

This level of control has been achieved by manipulating miRNAs — tiny pieces of RNA that regulate cell behaviour within the exosomes. In the long-term, the same research group would like to create synthetic exosomes.

The latest research has been published in the journal PLOS One, in a paper headed “Neuronal Differentiation of Human Mesenchymal Stem Cells Using Exosomes Derived from Differentiating Neuronal Cells.”

About the author

Tim Sandle

Dr. Tim Sandle is a chartered biologist and holds a first class honours degree in Applied Biology; a Masters degree in education; and has a doctorate from Keele University.