Australian scientists have have developed a super-thin and springy substance that mimics conditions inside the human body; that can promote the growth of haemopoietic stem cells (HSCs) on a lab plate.
The research was a collaboration of the Centenary Institute, the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital and the University of Sydney and the results are published in the journal, Nature Biotechnology.
- A unique way to grow a precious and life-saving type of stem cell, likened to putting a “cat on a sofa” in the lab;
- The cells, used to save the lives of people with leukemia and in the treatment of a range of disorders over 40 years, must otherwise be harvested from bone marrow or the umbilical cords of newborns.
Professor John Rasko, of the Sydney-based Centenary Institute said the new process could make “a very substantial difference” to the global availability of a very precious and limited resource. What has been shown and discovered is that these rare and precious red blood-forming tem cells can sense their physical environment and these HSCs can actually sense the springiness or elasticity of the bed they find themselves on.
- By recreating that elastic bed for the stem cells, outside of the body, we can cause those cells to double or triple in number and grow them outside of the body;
- The “molecular springy surface” was called tropoelastin and it was just 12 nanometers (0.0000012 of a centimeters) thick, though it had unique elastic properties;
- This development could allow doctors and scientists to expand their use of HSCs without drawing more from the world’s stocks of donated cord blood and bone marrow;
- HSCs are the basic building blocks of the blood supply;
- They are used in transplants to reconstitute a person’s immune system after leukemia, lymphoma, or various blood or auto-immune disorders have been treated with chemotherapy;
- By increasing the number of stem cells that are grown outside of the body; these HSCs could effectively use less bone marrow or cord blood, to get the same result or use the same amount to get a much better result.
About 3,500 people die of blood cancers each year in Australia alone and that number is going to increase dramatically as the population ages.