May 23, 2019 | Updated: 11:35 AM EDT

Revolutionary Method of Generating Stem Cells Through Blood

May 13, 2019 08:03 AM EDT

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Stem Cells
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Collaborators from the Queen's University Belfast and King's College London (KCL) discovered a treatment method to cardiovascular diseases caused by diabetes.

These scientists have developed an approach in using a small blood sample in producing large quantities of stem cells in a short period of time. They discovered that damaged cells within blood vessels can be generated and replaced by these stem cells. Complications related to the blood vessels can be prevented through this treatment. Some of these include kidney disease, heart attacks, blindness, and amputations in individuals with diabetes. They published their findings in the journal Stem Cells

Dr. Andriana Margariti, lead author from the Queen's University Belfast reiterates, "Being able to produce large quantities of stem cells from a few millilitres of blood in a short timeframe is truly ground-breaking. This could revolutionise how we treat a vast number of blood vessel diseases."

"Previously, this cell transformation process would have involved a skin biopsy, or large volumes of blood, which simply isn't viable for many patients as it is a risky process which can take a long recovery time."

"This study focused on stem cells for vascular diseases but the same process can be used to produce stem cells for a number of organs, including the brain and kidneys, which has huge implications for the future of healthcare."

A specific gene called Endothelial Specific Molecule 1 (ESM1) controls the production and function of newly-generating endothelial cells. Activating this gene holds a potential in regulating different vascular diseases. 

The blood vessels are protected by the endothelial cells. Endothelial cells act as protective layer as they arefound on top layer of cells in blood vessels. Cardiovascular diseases cause these cells to be damaged and is most often accelerated in patients with diabetes. 

The damage in endothelial cells make people with diabetes and cardiovasculat disease prone to blindness, heart attacks, and poor circulation. 

 "A major source of mortality among those with cardiovascular diseases, and especially patients with diabetes, is due to irreversible damage to their endothelial cells which can lead to blockage of blood flow to the heart, eyes, kidney and limbs," Dr. Margariti emphasized. 

"One in every two people with diabetes will die from a heart attack. Current treatment for diabetes is often limited to drugs that regulate sugars and fats in the blood, and hypertension, but unless the endothelial cells are repaired, unfortunately, the illness will continue to progress."

Their study demonstrated that ESM1 gene-expressing stem cells significantly increased the blood flow and has regenerative potential in damaged blood vessels. 

In a concept known as cell therapy, damage can be repaired through the transplantation of healthy endothelial cells. Professor Alan Stitt, Dean of Innovation and Education at Queen's University Belfast and co-author explained: "Through the technology developed, we can readily produce stem cells to transplant to damaged blood vessels. We have discovered that activating the particular gene ESM1 will improve the production and function of endothelial cells, reversing the damaged cells. This is life-changing as the results have shown that repairing these cells can stop the progressive illnesses, which will prevent blindness and amputations," as reported in Medical Xpress

"Cell transplantation has huge potential though it is not suitable for all vascular diseases such as coronary disease. Now we know how to generate and improve the function of these cells, we will focus on screening drugs to see which treatments will further improve the function of these cells and ultimately improve the lives of millions of people afflicted with these illnesses."

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