29 October 2018

A new technique could help blood cells regenerate faster in patients with haematological cancers, researchers have reported.

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), USA, used a technique called “mechanopriming” to grow mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) on a surface whose mechanical properties are very similar to that of bone marrow.

The method, detailed last week in the journal Stem Cell Research and Therapy, enabled the cells to produce special factors that help haematopoietic stem and progenitor cells (HSPCs) differentiate into red and white blood cells, as well as platelets and other blood cells.

In a mouse study, the team led by Professor Krystyn Van Vliet showed that the specially grown MSCs helped the animals to recover faster from bone marrow irradiation. This repopulated the animals' blood cells quickly and helped them to recover faster than mice treated with MSCs grown on traditional stiff plastic surfaces.

Professor Van Vliet said the MSCs “act like drug factories. They can become tissue lineage cells, but they also pump out a lot of factors that change the environment that the haematopoietic stem cells are operating in.”

Cancer patients receiving a stem cell transplant usually receive only HPSCs, which can become blood cells. However, a previous study by Professor Van Vliet has shown that mice recover faster when they are also given MSCs, although only 20% of the MSC population produce the factors that promote blood cell growth. This study aimed to find a way of stimulating the entire population of MSCs to produce the necessary factors.

They found that secretion of the osteopontin protein was most highly correlated with better survival rates in mice treated with MSCs.

Professor Van Vliet and her team are now performing more animal studies in the hope of developing a combination treatment of MSCs and HSPCs that could be tested in humans. They also want to study whether mechanopriming can induce MSCs to promote the development of additional cell types, which could be useful for treating diseases such as Parkinson’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and others.

Source: Liu, F.D., Tam, K., Pishesha, N., Poon, Z., Van Vliet, K.J. (2018) “Improving hematopoietic recovery through modeling and modulation of the mesenchymal stromal cell secretome”, Stem Cell Research and Therapy, available at doi: 10.1186/s13287-018-0982-2


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