Tag: regenerative medicine

The Secret of ‘Rejuvenating’ Blood Transfusions Between Mice

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Researchers have identified an important mediator of youthfulness in mouse muscle, which explains the ‘rejuvenating’ blood transfusions effect between young and old mice. The discovery could also lead to new therapies for age-related muscle loss.

Published in Nature Aging, the study showed that circulating shuttles called extracellular vesicles, or EVs, deliver genetic instructions for the longevity protein known as Klotho to muscle cells. Reduced muscle function and repair in old mice may be driven by aged EVs, which carry fewer instructions than those in young animals.

The findings help further as to understanding why muscle regeneration capacity diminishes with age.

“We’re really excited about this research for a couple of reasons,” said senior author Dr Fabrisia Ambrosio. “In one way, it helps us understand the basic biology of how muscle regeneration works and how it fails to work as we age. Then, taking that information to the next step, we can think about using extracellular vesicles as therapeutics to counteract these age-related defects.”

Decades of research have shown that when old mice are given blood from young mice, youthful features are restored to many cells and tissues. But until now, it was unclear which components of young blood confer these rejuvenating effects.

“Amrita Sahu releaseWe wondered if extracellular vesicles might contribute to muscle regeneration because these couriers travel between cells via the blood and other bodily fluids,” said lead author Dr Amrita Sahu. “Like a message in a bottle, EVs deliver information to target cells.”

Ambrosio and her team collected serum from young mice and injected it into aged mice with injured muscle. Mice that received young serum showed enhanced muscle regeneration and functional recovery compared to those that received a placebo treatment, but the serum’s restorative properties were lost when EVs were removed, indicating that it is these vesicles which deliver the beneficial effects of young blood.

The researchers then found that EVs deliver genetic instructions, or mRNA, encoding the anti-ageing protein Klotho to muscle progenitor cells, important stem cells for muscle regeneration. EVs collected from old mice carried fewer copies of Klotho instructions than those from young mice, causing muscle progenitor cells to produce less of this protein.

With advancing age, muscle doesn’t recover from damage as well because scar tissue is laid down. In earlier work, Ambrosio and her team showed that Klotho is an important regulator of regenerative capacity in muscle progenitor cells and that this protein declines with age.

The new study shows for the first time that age-related shifts in EV cargo contribute to depleted Klotho in aged stem cells, suggesting that EVs could be developed into novel therapies for healing damaged muscle tissue.

“EVs may be beneficial for boosting regenerative capacity of muscle in older individuals and improving functional recovery after an injury,” said Ambrosio. “One of the ideas we’re really excited about is engineering EVs with specific cargoes, so that we can dictate the responses of target cells.”

Beyond muscles, EVs also could help reverse other effects of ageing. Previous work has demonstrated that young blood can boost cognitive performance of aged mice.

Source: University of Pittsburgh

Neuromodulation Could Help Heart Muscle Regeneration

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Human heart muscle cells stop multiplying after birth, making any heart injury later in life a permanent one, reducing function and leading to heart failure. Now, however, researchers have new evidence that manipulating certain nerve cells or their controlling genes might trigger the formation of new heart muscle cells and restore heart function after heart attacks and other cardiac disorders.

The study, published in Science Advances, sheds new light on how some neurons regulate the number of heart muscle cells. While nerve cells have long been known to regulate heart function, their role and impact during heart development and their effect on muscle cell growth has been unclear.

“Our study sought to examine the role of so-called sympathetic neurons on heart development after birth, and what we found is that by manipulating them, there could be tremendous potential for regulating the total number of muscle cells in the heart even after birth,” said lead author Emmanouil Tampakakis, MD, assistant professor of medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

The nerve cells that make up the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) control automatic processes in the body such as digestion, heart rate and respiration. The SNS is typically associated with ‘fight-or-flight’ responses.

Researchers in this study made a genetically modified mouse model by blocking sympathetic heart neurons in developing mouse embryos, and analysed the drivers of heart muscle cell proliferation through the first two weeks of life after birth.

What they found was a significant decrease in the activity of a pair of genes – the period 1 and period 2 genes – already known to control the circadian cycle. Remarkably, removing those two circadian genes in mouse embryos, the researchers saw increased neonatal heart size and an increase in the number of cardiomyocytes, or heart muscle cells, by up to 10%. Thus, sympathetic nerves on heart muscle cells could likely be mediated through these two circadian genes.

Circadian, or ‘clock’, genes are components of the circadian rhythm pattern that in mammals regulates bodily functions on a roughly 24-hour cycle aligned with hours of daylight and darkness.

“Shortly after birth, mammals, including people and mice, stop producing heart muscle cells. And unlike other organs, like the liver, the heart can’t regenerate after it’s damaged,” said Prof Tampakakis. “We’ve shown that it may be possible to manipulate nerves and/or circadian genes, either through drugs or gene therapies, to increase the number of heart cells after birth.”

Up to a billion heart muscle cells can be lost after a heart attack, and Prof Tampakakis says there is scientific evidence that hearts tend to recover faster after an attack when the total number of cells to begin with is higher. By manipulating sympathetic nerves and clock genes (a technique called neuromodulation) researchers believe the heart could be made to respond to injury much better.

“Neuromodulation is a pretty new concept in cardiology, and we believe these are the first reports that associate clock genes with new growth of heart muscle cells.” saidChulan Kwon, PhD, MS, associate professor of medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. “Our study, maybe for the first time, shows what’s happening if you block the supply of nerves to the heart, and provides new insights for developing neuromodulation strategies for cardiac regeneration.”

Source: Johns Hopkins Medicine

Atmospheric Plasma Device Boosts Bone Regeneration

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Scientists in Japan have developed a plasma device that promotes bone regeneration in fractures.

Unlike blood plasma, plasma here refers to the fourth state of matter, effectively a highly ionised gas, which has been long investigated as an effective surgical scalpel which cauterises tissue as it cuts. Other recent applications of plasma technology include surface sterilisation.

Now, a new type of plasma device, termed non-thermal atmospheric pressure plasma (NTAPP), was successfully tested in healing of bone fractures in animal bone defect models. It is cooler than most plasmas that are typically used. In a study published in PLOS ONE, researchers from Osaka City University detailed their findings using the technology in this world-first application.

Acceleration of cell growth
“NTAPP is considered a new therapeutic method,” said first author Akiyoshi Shimatani, “as it has been shown to accelerate cell growth when applied at low enough levels.” He explained that in an ambient atmosphere it can generate highly reactive oxygen and nitrogen species (RONS) which can be directly exposed to tissues.

Indirect treatments have shown the potential advantages of plasma in supporting the creation of stem cells that cause reactive oxygen species and in inducing osteogenic differentiation and bone formation, however, as the team points out there is no report on directly using NTAPP for bone fracture therapy. “Direct exposure of NTAPP is a key part of this study” states Jun-Seok Oh, professor at the OCU Graduate School of Engineering and advisor to the study, “It required a device specifically designed to generate and deliver RONS to areas of the bone defect ‘effectively’.”

The research group developed a pencil-like plasma device that can effectively generate and deliver RONS to an animal model with a well-established critical bone defect, allowing the team to search for the optimal exposure conditions. Comparing groups that were treated with NTAPP for 5, 10, and 15 minutes to control groups with no plasma administered, micro-CT images at eight weeks showed the 10-minute treatment time as the most successful bone regeneration with 1.51 times larger bone volume than the control group.

Since micro-CT images could not determine whether a bone defect has been filled with new bone, tissue or both, the team also ran a histological analysis and confirmed bone defects in the groups treated with plasma were in fact filled with new bone, and had no tissue or gaps like the control groups.

Precision therapy
The biological effect of plasma, like other therapies, depends on the treatment dose delivered into the targets. Although future research will be needed to clarify why the study saw the most bone regeneration during the 10-minute treatment period, surface wettability is understood to promote greater cell spreading and adhesion to biomaterials and implants. Hiroaki Nakamura, professor at the Graduate School of Medicine explained: “We wondered if something similar was occurring where we saw a strong generation of new bone. And we found that compared to the control group, bone surface of the plasma-treated group as statistically and significantly more hydrophilic.”

The research team hopes the plasma device they developed can be applied for surgical use.

Source: Osaka City University

New Wound Healing Scoring System Proposed

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Researchers have proposed a new scoring system for wound healing in mice based on parameters in each phase of healing.

The researchers described the system in an article in the peer-reviewed journal Stem Cells and Development.

Wound healing processes consist of a sequence of molecular and cellular events which occur after the onset of a tissue lesion in order to restore the damaged tissue. In order to evaluate the efficacy of new treatments, there is a need to monitor wound progression accurately and reproducibly over time. 

The parameters include re-epithelisation, epithelial thickness index, keratinisation, granulation tissue thickness, remodeling, and the scar elevation index. These parameters can be assessed using either Hematoxylin & Eosin or Masson’s Trichrome staining. Mari van de Vyver, from Stellenbosch University, and colleagues developed this histology scoring system for cutaneous wounds in mice. They then validated the system in four different types of murine skin wound models.

“This histological scoring system defines and describes the minimum recommended criteria for assessing wound healing dynamics,” state the authors. “The experience and ability of investigators to accurately identify structures in histology slides at different stages of healing is crucial for consistency and repeatability of measures to deliver meaningful results.”

“The development and validation of this scoring system in a randomized blinded investigation by researchers from Stellenbosch University (South Africa), Polish Academy of Sciences in Olsztyn (Poland), University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center (Texas, USA) and Obatala Sciences Inc. (New Orleans, USA) represents a truly international effort to advance the robust and accurate assessment of wound healing,” stated Graham C Parker, PhD, Editor-in-Chief of Stem Cells and Development and The Carman and Ann Adams Department of Pediatrics, Wayne State University School of Medicine, Detroit, MI.

Source: Mary Ann Liebert, Inc.

Journal information: van de Vyver, M., et al. (2021) Histology Scoring System for Murine Cutaneous Wounds. Stem Cells and Development.doi.org/10.1089/scd.2021.0124.

Chemical Fingerprints Improve Stem Cell Production

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Researchers in Japan have developed a new, noninvasive way to monitor the tricky art of stem cell production.

The current era of ethical stem cell research was ushered in by the 2012 Nobel prize-winning discovery that ordinary cells could be coaxed to revert to their earliest pluripotent stage ushered in. Suddenly, scientists could have an ethical, near-inexhaustible supply of pluripotent stem cells — the most versatile of stem cells — that can become any type of cell much like how embryonic stem cells function.

These reprogrammed cells called induced pluripotent stem cells (or iPS cells) hold great promise for regenerative medicine, where they can be used to develop tissue or organ replacement-based treatments for life-threatening diseases.

One key challenge is that it is a lengthy and delicate process to artificially induce ordinary cells to reset back to pluripotency. Obtaining iPS cells therefore is a matter of chance. However, knowing all they can about the complex chemical changes happening inside during reprogramming can help scientists increase the chances of successfully obtaining viable iPS cells for clinical applications. Current methods that track reprogramming status, however, use destructive and costly techniques.

A study led by Dr Tomonobu Watanabe, professor at Hiroshima University’s Research Institute for Radiation Biology and Medicine, showed that Raman spectroscopy could be a low-cost, simpler, and non-intrusive technique to monitor the cell’s internal environment as it transitions.

Dr Watanabe explained: “The quality evaluation and sorting of existing cells have been carried out by investigating the presence or absence of expression of surface marker genes. However, since this method requires a fluorescent antibody, it is expensive and causes a problem of bringing the antibody into the cells.”

He added that the “solution of these problems can accelerate the spread of safe and low-cost regenerative medicine using artificial tissues. Through our method, we provide a technique for evaluating and sorting the quality of iPS cells inexpensively and safely, based on scattering spectroscopy.”

Raman spectroscopy is an alternative to invasive approaches that require dyes or labels to extract biochemical information. It instead makes use of vibration signatures produced when light beams interact with chemical bonds in the cell. Since each chemical has its own distinct vibration frequency, scientists can use it to identify the cell’s molecular makeup.

The team used this spectroscopic technique to get the “chemical fingerprints” of mouse embryonic stem cells, the neuronal cells they specialised into, and the iPS cells formed from those neuronal cells. These data were then used to train an AI model to can track the reprogramming is progressing, and verify iPS cell quality by checking for a “fingerprint” match with the embryonic stem cell.

To measure the progress, they assigned the “chemical fingerprint” of neuronal cells as the transformation starting point and the embryonic stem cell’s patterns as the desired end goal. Along the axis, they used “fingerprint” samples collected on days 5, 10, and 20 of the neuronal cells’ reprogramming as reference points on how the process is advancing.

“The Raman scattering spectrum contains comprehensive information on molecular vibrations, and the amount of information may be sufficient to define cells. If so, unlike gene profiling, it allows for a more expressive definition of cell function,” Dr Watanabe said.

“We aim to study stem cells from a different perspective than traditional life sciences.”

Source: Hiroshima University

Journal information: Germond, A., et al. (2020) Following Embryonic Stem Cells, Their Differentiated Progeny, and Cell-State Changes During iPS Reprogramming by Raman Spectroscopy. Analytical Chemistry doi.org/10.1021/acs.analchem.0c01800.