Lifewatch: Stem cell advances

Reported by Claire Hosmann - email
Posted by Debra Worley - email

(WECT) - British medical researchers are hailing a ground breaking stem cell treatment that could greatly enhance the body's ability to repair itself.

Scientists hope the new drugs could lead to new treatments to repair broken bones and damaged cardiac tissue.

Instead of injecting patients with stem cells from donors, embryos, or cell banks, they will be able to make their own.

We already have a handful of stem cells continually circulating around our bodies, which can repair damaged tissue.

They naturally migrate from the bone marrow from where they're made toward the areas where they are needed most.

A team at Imperial College London have identified new drugs to increase the production of these tissue repair cells, which will flood our circulation to mend diseased heart tissue or broken bones.

"There are two types of stem cells that we're talking about," said Dr. Sara Rankin.  "One of them is very important for forming new blood vessels, and those are very critical for repairing heart after heart attack because they will form blood vessels in the damaged tissue, the other type can actually turn into things like cartilage and bone.  So if you've broken your bone, those cells will actually repair the bone."

Dr. Rankin and her team have so far concentrated their research on mice, but the British Heart Foundation believes it's a huge step forward.

By liberating the body's own stem cells, researchers have been able to avoid ethical objections surrounding embryonic stem cells.

It's hoped the treatment might become available in the next ten years.