Healing properties of stem cells improved

12 October 2009

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Category: Research & medical benefits

how–mouse-and-petri-dish.jpgIn a mouse study, scientists have engineered stem cells to enhance their healing properties. Stem cells are already known to have the potential to repair most tissues in the body. However, the rate of repair is limited by blood supply, because blood provides the nutrients to the new tissue. Stem cells cannot always encourage enough blood vessel growth, so the team added an extra gene (for the protein VEGF) to the cells. VEGF is known to promote the formation of blood vessels.

Scientists tested the effectiveness of these engineered stem cells using mice with injuries to their hind limbs. They saw that the mice which had received the modified stem cells had three times the number of blood vessels around the tissue compared to control mice. After four weeks, just one fifth of the mice had lost limbs, whereas nearly two thirds of control mice had required limb amputation.

These results highlight a promising therapy for tissue repair after injury. The technique itself could also be applied to a number of disorders; different genes could be added to the stem cells to tailor them to carry out specific jobs.