Bioengineers at the University of Notre Dame in a study to be published incommunication biologyA new approach may heal affected stem cells, allowing them to grow new tissue again, according to research in the journal Communications Biology.
Specially created nanoparticles are a key component of this new strategy. Each spherical nanoparticle can store the drug and deliver it exclusively to stem cells by attaching to the cell surface. These nanoparticles are about 150 nanometers in diameter, or about a quarter the size of a red blood cell. The particles deliver the drug gradually due to their unique tuning action, which makes them very effective even at extremely low doses.
Donny Hanjaya-Putra, an associate professor of aerospace and mechanical engineering in the University of Notre Dame’s Bioengineering Graduate Program, directs the lab that conducted the research, and he used an analogy to describe the process. “Each stem cell is like a soldier. It’s smart and efficient; it knows where to go and what to do. But the ‘soldier’ we’re studying is wounded and weak. By giving them this nanoparticle ‘backpack’, We’re giving them what they need to make them work effectively again.”
The main test of stem cells equipped with the new “backpack” is whether they can form new tissues. Hanjaya-Putra and his team tested damaged cells without the “backpack” and observed that they moved slowly and formed imperfect tissue. But when Hanjaya-Putra and his team applied the “backpack,” previously damaged stem cells began to form new blood vessels, whether inserted in a synthetic polymer or under the skin of lab mice, both environments. To simulate the condition of the human body.
While the new technology may be several years away from reaching an actual healthcare setting, Hanjaya-Putra explained that it is the clearest path to any approach developed so far. “Methods that involve injecting drugs directly into the bloodstream have many unwanted risks and side effects,” says Hanjaya-Putra. In addition, new methods like gene editing face a long journey to approval by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). But Hanjaya-Putra’s technology uses only methods and materials that have been approved for clinical use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Hanjaya-Putra attributes the success of the study to a highly interdisciplinary research group. “It’s a collaboration between chemical engineering, mechanical engineering, biology and medicine — I’ve always found that the best science happens at the intersection of several different fields.”
The study’s lead authors are former Notre Dame postdoctoral student Loan Bui, now a faculty member at the University of Dayton, Ohio; stem cell biologist Laura S. Haneline and Shanique Edwards, a former postdoctoral fellow from Indiana University School of Medicine; Eva Hall and Laura Alderfer, PhD students in the Department of Bioengineering, Notre Dame; Pietro Sainaghi, Kellen Round, and Madeline Owen, undergraduates at Notre Dame; Prakash Nallathamby, Research Associate Professor (Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering) ; and Siyuan Zhang from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center.
The researchers hope their method will be used to restore cells damaged by other types of pregnancy complications, such as preeclampsia. “In the future, we hope that clinicians will be able to rejuvenate stem cells and use them to regenerate the body, rather than discarding stem cells,” said Hanjaya-Putra. For example, a baby born prematurely due to preeclampsia may have to remain in neonatal intensive care The intensive care unit, whose lungs are not fully formed. We hope our technology will improve the developmental outcomes of this child.”