[GRG] Stem cells use ‘first aid kits’ to repair damage


Contact: Louise Walsh
University of Cambridge

Stem cells use ‘first aid kits’ to repair damage

Stem cells hold great promise as a means of repairing cells in
conditions such as multiple sclerosis, stroke or injuries of the
spinal cord because they have the ability to develop into almost
any cell type. Now, new research shows that stem cell therapy can
also work through a mechanism other than cell replacement.

In a study published today in Molecular Cell, a team of researchers
led by the University of Cambridge has shown that stem cells
“communicate” with cells by transferring molecules via fluid filled
bags called vesicles, helping other cells to modify the damaging
immune response around them.

Although scientists have speculated that stem cells might act
rather like drugs – in sensing signals, moving to specific areas of
the body and executing complex reactions – this is the first time
that a molecular mechanism for this process has been demonstrated.
By understanding this process better, researchers can identify ways
of maximising the efficiency of stem-cell-based therapies.

Dr Stefano Pluchino from the Wellcome Trust-Medical Research
Council Cambridge Stem Cell Institute, who led the study, said:
“These tiny vesicles in stem cells contain molecules like proteins
and nucleic acids that stimulate the target cells and help them to
survive – they act like mini “first aid kits”.

“Essentially, they mirror how the stem cells respond to an
inflammatory environment like that seen during complex neural
injuries and diseases, and they pass this ability on to the target
cells. We think this helps injured brain cells to repair

Mice with damage to brain cells – such as the damage seen in
multiple sclerosis – show a remarkable level of recovery when
neural stem/precursor cells (NPCs) are injected into their
circulatory system. It has been suggested that this happens because
the NPCs discharge molecules that regulate the immune system and
that ultimately reduce tissue damage or enhance tissue repair.

The team of researchers from the UK, Australia, Italy, China and
Spain has now shown that NPCs make vesicles when they are in the
vicinity of an immune response, and especially in response to a
small protein, or cytokine, called Interferon-gamma which is
released by immune cells. This protein has the ability to regulate
both the immune responses and intrinsic brain repair programmes and
can alter the function of cells by regulating the activity of
scores of genes.

Their results show that a highly specific pathway of gene
activation is triggered in NPCs by IFN-gamma, and that this protein
also binds to a receptor on the surface of vesicles. When the
vesicles are released by the NPCs, they adhere and are taken up by
target cells. Not only does the target cell receive proteins and
nucleic acids that can help them self-repair, but it also receives
the IFN-gamma on the surface of the vesicles, which activates genes
within the target cells.

The researchers, who were funded by the European Research Council
and the Italian MS Society, used electron microscopy and
superresolution imaging to visualise the vesicles moving between
the NPCs and target cells in vitro.

“Our work highlights a surprising novel role for stem-cell-derived
vesicles in propagating responses to the environment,” added
Pluchino. “It represents a significant advance in understanding the
many levels of interaction between stem cells and the immune
system, and a new molecular mechanism to explain how stem-cell
therapy works.”

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About Johnny Adams

My full-time commitment is to slow and ultimately reverse age related functional decline to increase healthy years of life. I’ve been active in this area since the 1970s, steadily building skills and accomplishments. I have a good basic understanding of the science of aging, and have many skills that complement those of scientists so they can focus on science to advance our shared mission. Broad experience Top skills: administration, management, information technology (data and programming), communications, writing, marketing, market research and analysis, public speaking, forging ethical win-win outcomes among stakeholders (i.e. high level "selling"). Knowledge in grant writing, fundraising, finance. Like most skilled professionals, I’m best described as a guy who defines an end point, then figures out how to get there. I enjoy the conception, design, execution and successful completion of a grand plan. Executive Director Gerontology Research Group (GRG). Manages Email discussion forum, web site, meetings and oversees supercentenarian (oldest humans, 110+ years) research. CEO / Executive Director Carl I. Bourhenne Medical Research Foundation (Aging Intervention Foundation), an IRS approved 501(c)(3) nonprofit. http://www.AgingIntervention.org Early contributor to Supercentenarian Research Foundation. Co-Founder Geroscience Healthspan Forum. Active contributor to numerous initiatives to increase healthy years of life. Co-authored book on conventional, practical methods available today to slow the processes of aging – nutrition, exercise, behavior modification and motivation, stress reduction, proper supplementation, damage caused by improper programs, risk reduction and others. Fundamental understanding of, and experience in the genomics of longevity (internship analyzing and curating longevity gene papers). Biological and technical includes information technology, software development and computer programming, bioinformatics and protein informatics, online education, training programs, regulatory, clinical trials software, medical devices (CAT scanners and related), hospital electrical equipment testing program. Interpersonal skills – good communication, honest, well liked, works well in teams or alone. Real world experience collaborating in interdisciplinary teams in fast paced organizations. Uses technology to advance our shared mission. Education: MBA 1985 University of Southern California -- Deans List, Albert Quon Community Service Award (for volunteering with the American Longevity Association and helping an elderly lady every other week), George S. May Scholarship, CA State Fellowship. BA psychology, psychobiology emphasis 1983 California State University Fullerton Physiological courses as well as core courses (developmental, abnormal etc). UCLA Psychobiology 1978, one brief but fast moving and fulfilling quarter. Main interest was the electrochemical basis of consciousness. Also seminars at the NeuroPsychiatric Institute. Other: Ongoing conferences, meetings and continuing education. Aging, computer software and information technology. Some molecular biology, biotech, bio and protein informatics, computer aided drug design, clinical medical devices, electronics, HIPAA, fundraising through the Assoc. of Fundraising Professionals. Previous careers include: Marketing Increasing skill set and successes in virtually all phases, with valuable experience in locating people and companies with the greatest need and interest in a product or service, and sitting across the table with decision makers and working out agreements favorable to all. Information Technology: Management, data analysis and programming in commercial and clinical trials systems, and bioinformatics and protein informatics. As IT Director at Newport Beach, CA based technology organization Success Family of Continuing Education Companies, provided online software solutions for insurance and financial professionals in small to Fortune 500 size companies. We were successful with lean team organization (the slower moving competition was unable to create similar software systems). Medical devices: At Omnimedical in Paramount CA developed and managed quality assurance dept. and training depts. for engineers, physicians and technicians. Designed hospital equipment testing program for hospital services division. In my early 20’s I was a musician, and studied psychology and music. Interned with the intention of becoming a music therapist. These experiences helped develop valuable skills used today to advance our shared mission of creating aging solutions.
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