Microencapsulated stem cells show promise for accelerated wound healing
Researchers at Cornell University have demonstrated the wound regeneration potential of encapsulated stem cells.
Researchers at Cornell University (NY, USA) have demonstrated that stem cells confined inside tiny capsules secrete substances that aid wound healing in cell cultures. This opens up new possibilities for delivery of these substances to wounds in the body where they can accelerate the healing process. The study was recently published in Stem Cell Research & Therapy.
The coreshell hydrogel microcapsules are yet to be tested to assess their efficacy in animals and humans, but this could eventually lead to “living bandage” technologies in which wounds dressings are embedded with capsules of stem cells to aid wound regeneration.
“The encapsulation seems to increase the stem cells’ regenerative potential,” explained Gerlinde Van de Walle from Cornell. “It's possible that putting them in capsules changes the interactions between stem cells or changes the microenvironment.”
To her knowledge, Van de Walle explained that this is the first time encapsulated stem cells have been used to treat wounds. Her team utilized horse stem cells and cell cultures due to important similarities in healing processes we share with the animals and because wound healing in horses is a particularly difficult problem in veterinary medicine.
Mesenchymal stem cells are known to secrete substances that aid tissue healing. Problems arise however, when these stem cells are used in patients, as they do not stay in the healing area and can occasionally form tumors or differentiate into unwanted cell types.
The research team began exploring the possibilities of encapsulating these cells as a way of avoiding these issues. The capsules help cells stay in place while they secrete substances into the wound and can be easily removed easily should the stem cells develop in an adverse way.
The advantage of the capsules is that they do not diminish stem cell properties but instead appear to enhance the beneficial effects the stem cell secreted products have on tissue cultures, suggesting that encapsulating stem cells for wound healing can also boost the effectiveness of treatment.
With their mesenchymal stem cell work, Van de Walle and her colleagues are trying to understand the basic science behind the regenerative abilities of these cells. Stem cells can be used in horses without much regulatory oversight, but studies to back up many of these uses are lacking and the Cornell team is planning on shedding some light on this poorly understood area.
“Currently many equine veterinarians are using stem cells for therapy, but the mechanisms in which they work – and their potential – haven’t been fully explored,” commented co-author Rebecca Harman (Cornell). “Going in vivo is the ultimate goal, but there’s still work to be done in vitro. We're expanding our cell culture experiments to include other cell types present in skin.”
This new study shows that microencapsulated stem cells have a great deal of promise, but there is a lot to do before this new technology can be used in hospitals or veterinary clinics. And, since the skin is a complex organ, the approach first needs to be studied in a variety of cell culture systems before testing on humans or horses.
1. Cornell University press release: http://www.news.cornell.edu/stories/2015/04/encapsulated-stem-cells-accelerate-wound-healing