Bone marrow is a complex tissue that, until now, could only be studied in living animals. Recently, Harvard researchers created “bone marrow on a chip” by reproducing the structure and function of bone marrow. Past efforts involving combining cells on an artificial surface have failed, because bone marrow is extremely complex. So researchers turned to animals for help. By creating a framework of bone powder and implanting it under the skin of an animal, the animal’s body did the work for them and created an impressive bone and marrow structure!
The engineered bone marrow could help researchers assess potential side effects of cancer treatments, observe the effects of drugs to prevent radiation poisoning, and even generate blood cells. It may even be possible to grow human bone marrow in immune-deficient mice!
Researchers work with animals because they often give more accurate information than cell cultures and computer simulations alone. From vaccine development to cancer treatments to joint replacement surgery, animals have been- and continue to be- extremely important in the effort to save lives. And now, animals are helping researchers create better alternatives, which could ultimately reduce the number of animals needed in research without compromising research outcomes. Good news for everyone!
Premature babies often have lasting lung problems, but hopefully that won’t always be the case. Researchers are working on bigger and better treatments- and there’s some good news!
Currently, mothers of premature babies often receive steroid injections before delivery to help the baby’s lungs develop. After the baby’s birth, surfactant can also be administered to coat the lungs and facilitate oxygen exchange. And while these treatments have saved the lives of many babies and are incredible medical advances, researchers are working on bigger and better ideas.
By using stems cells and regenerative medicine, researchers at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario are developing techniques that could safely repair damaged lungs of premature infants! They’re using stem cells that make blood vessels, and in addition to providing hope to parents of preemies, this could also potentially help in the treatment of chronic lung diseases in adults. Research in animals has shown promising results, and clinical trials could start in just a few years. Read more about it here:
The Philosopher’s Stone is a legendary substance that is believed to turn ordinary metals into gold. And in a way, researchers may have found it- a way to turn ordinary cells into extremely valuable new cells that could change the face of medicine.
Believe it or not, plants were the inspiration for this discovery. When exposed to environmental stressors, plant cells can change into immature cells that can develop into completely new plants. So scientists listened to the plants, and decided to see if they could create a similar response when ‘stressing’ mouse cells. And it worked! After trying several different tactics, they found that soaking cells in an acidic solution (think mildly acidic like vinegar, not sulfuric or hydrochloric acid) actually caused them to reprogram.
This breakthrough has enabled researchers to actually create cells that act like stem cells. Stem cells are important because they are flexible enough to be able to develop into any kind of cell (unlike skin cells, muscle cells, liver cells, etc. which already have defined purposes) with the right instructions. The use of stem cells isolated from embryos has been controversial, so this development has really been creating a buzz in the medical community!
Could ‘stressing’ cells help human patients? Is it possible that patients with limb amputations, nerve injuries, or degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s could benefit from this research? While it’s too early to tell, this is one amazing discovery that’s definitely worth keeping tabs on!
The bond between a mother and her child can be incredibly powerful. But research shows that it’s more than just emotional- a mother can carry a part of her child with her throughout her life!
During pregnancy, a mother provides her baby with warmth, safety, and essential nutrients. But it’s not all one-sided- the baby protects its mother, too! Through the blood exchange via the placenta, cells from the baby enter the mother’s bloodstream and can migrate through her body, ultimately settling in the heart, brain and other tissues.
This specific research study showed that these cells were less common in the brains of women who had Alzheimer’s disease. Earlier research has shown that fetal cells that remain in a mother’s tissues can help her fight off breast cancer, and research in mice showed that fetal cells literally helped heal a mother’s heart- when a pregnant mouse had a heart attack, fetal stem cells rushed to the area and began changing into new heart cells! That mother-child bond is stronger than you thought!
So if you’re a mom, regardless of where your child is, it might help you to know that a part of your child will always be in your heart- literally!
This is awesome- stem cells are taken from a burn patient’s healthy skin, put into solution, and then sprayed onto damaged skin with the “skin gun.” This technique is still experimental but has shown amazing results! Just another example of research saving lives. Follow the link to the National Geographic video below!
Photo from http://cancerlabtechperspective.blogspot.com
New information from research in Toronto could help improve the effectiveness of bone marrow transplants for patients suffering from leukemia (and other cancers and immune disorders). Studies in mice, which were confirmed with samples from humans, showed that stem cells from bone ends are better at regenerating blood cells and immune system cells than the stem cells located in the shafts of bones. Not only are these cells better at regenerating, but they also work more efficiently and for longer periods of time than cells from the middle of the bones.
If doctors are able to collect stem cells that are more efficient, bone marrow transplants could not only be improved, but may be able to be effective for more people. The next step is to investigate the best ways of retrieving these superior stem cells. It’s exciting research, and could prove to really make a difference in bone marrow transplant methods. Stay tuned!