Medical scientists at UNSW develop ‘game-changing’ stem cell repair system

Stem cell therapies capable of regenerating damaged human tissue could be available within a few years thanks to a breakthrough by UNSW researchers.

The repair system that the researchers have developed is similar to the method used by salamanders to regenerate limbs – and it could be used to repair everything from spinal discs to bone fractures.  The UNSW-led research has been published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal.

Study lead author, haematologist and UNSW Associate Professor John Pimanda, said the new technique, which reprograms bone and fat cells into induced multipotent stem cells (iMS), has been successfully demonstrated in mice.

There are different types of stem cells including embryonic stem (ES) cells, which during embryonic development generate every type of cell in the human body, and adult stem cells, which are tissue-specific. There are no adult stem cells that regenerate multiple tissue types.

Associate Professor Pimanda explained: “This technique is ground-breaking because iMS cells regenerate multiple tissue types. We have taken bone and fat cells, switched off their memory and converted them into stem cells so they can repair different cell types once they are put back inside the body.”

The technique developed by UNSW researchers involves extracting adult human fat cells and treating them with the compound 5-Azacytidine (AZA), along with platelet-derived growth factor-AB (PDGF-AB) for approximately two days. The cells are then treated with the growth factor alone for a further two-three weeks.

It is hoped that human trials can begin in 2017.

You can read the full story on the UNSW website here.  If you are interested in studying a research degree at UNSW or any other university in Australia, you can find out how to apply here.

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