Over the past decade, scientists have learned that the molecules that mesenchymal stem cells release are every bit as important to regenerative medicine as the stem cells themselves. Stem cells release exosomes, which are tiny packets that contain countless molecules of microRNA, cytokines, and growth factors. These molecules are mainly what allows stem cells to help the body regrow and repair.
Dr. Vizoso and colleagues published a review article that describes the many benefits of the secretome, that is, stem cell exosomes and the substances they produce. They not only explain why exosomes are helpful in regenerative medicine but why stem cell exosomes bring a powerful enhancement to stem cells themselves.
Compared to exosomes, whole stem cells are rather big—one can safely inject far more exosomes than stem cells in each treatment. And, really, it seems that the stem cell exosomes are what is supplying most of the benefits.
Stem cells can be made to produce millions of exosomes. These stem cell exosomes can then be collected, stored, shipped, and infused with much less cost and aggravation than stem cells themselves. Exosomes have small molecules on their surfaces that allow them to seek out and find areas in the body where they are needed. Stem cells often need to be injected near the site of injury. Exosomes may work if simply infused into a vein.
Dr. Vizoso and coauthors make a persuasively strong argument about the potential benefits of infusing stem cell exosomes instead of stem cells themselves. They also point out the potential limitations of the process, given the current technology. For example, stem cells would need to be made “immortal” so that they can keep producing large amounts of the same sorts of exosomes over time. Fortunately, the techniques of cell immortalization have been around for at least 30 years. Thus, most of the barriers to widespread, large scale exosome use are things scientists already know how to overcome.
While there may still be benefits for direct stem cell infusions, the future of research is moving forward with stem cells and exosomes.
Reference: Vizoso, F., et al. (2017). Mesenchymal Stem Cell Secretome: Toward Cell-Free Therapeutic Strategies in Regenerative Medicine. International Journal of Molecular Sciences. 2017, 18(9), 1852.
While home remedies shouldn’t replace medical treatment when it comes to addressing ailments, there are many natural products right in your pantry which could deliver noteworthy health benefits. In particular, apple cider vinegar (ACV) is one ingredient hailed for its wellness-boosting properties. Discover some of the most common advantages of ACV below.
Supports Weight Loss
There’s no magic solution that can replace diet and exercise. Yet, ACV could help to boost weight loss results when combined with healthy eating and regular physical activity. In a 2009 study, participants who had one to two tablespoons of the vinegar each day had lower body fat, weight, and waist circumference than their peers. This could be due to the fact that ACV can help curb your appetite by making you feel full quicker.
Helps Control Blood Sugar
High blood sugar is a precursor to type 2 diabetes. It occurs when the body either can’t use insulin properly or has too little insulin. According to research, ACV could help to reduce glucose and insulin production after meals, and therefore aid in controlling blood sugar. Simply mixing an ACV dressing into your salad could be an effective supplement to ongoing diabetes management or prevention strategies.
Finally, ACV has been shown to help reduce the risk of or aid in the control of several conditions, including:
- Heart disease. In one study, results showed that eating a salad with vinegar-based dressings led to a decreased risk of the condition.
- PCOS. Research shows that ACV could help achieve normal ovarian function and menstrual cycles in women with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS).
- Acne. With its anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties, ACV may help to reduce acne and other skin issues when applied topically.
In addition to the health benefits above, many people use ACV as an all-natural cleaning agent. While the potential applications of the solution span far and wide, it’s always a good idea to talk to your doctor before incorporating any new natural remedies into your routine.
Scientists have long realized that multiple sclerosis is an inflammatory disease, and that the immune system, in a manner, attacks the brain and spinal cord. These inflammatory lesions cause patients to have severe neurological symptoms. Therefore, treatments for multiple sclerosis have focused on controlling the immune system.
There are current treatments of care for MS patients to manage their symptoms. They can help minimize the severity of the disease, but they may cause serious side effects. Consequently, researchers are constantly looker for newer, safer, less expensive alternatives.
While the precise cause of MS is still unknown, multiple sclerosis lesions contain high levels of an immune cell, specifically CD4+ T cells. These T cells become active in the central nervous system and interfere with the function of other T cells (regulatory T cells). Simply put, whatever causes MS creates abnormal regulatory T cells; healthy regulatory T cells are important for maintaining a balance between helpful and harmful immune system functions.
In the scientific research journal Oncotarget, Yang and co-authors showed experimentally for the first time that umbilical cord-derived mesenchymal stem cells could repair defective regulatory T cells in patients with MS.
The scientists collected mesenchymal stem cells from umbilical cord tissue (the tissue that is usually thrown away as medical waste after live birth). They also collected peripheral blood mononuclear cells (i.e. T cells, B cells, natural killer cells, and monocytes) from patients with MS and healthy volunteers. Stem cells and peripheral blood mononuclear cells were combined in the lab for 3 days. After incubation, samples with stem cells had a higher proportion of regulatory T cells, and those regulatory T cells had greatly improved their function. In fact, stem cell treatment made the defective regulatory T cells function much like regulatory T cells from healthy volunteers.
More work must be done to take this technology from the lab and into the clinic, but the proof of concept is remarkable. Stem cell treatment has been shown to be safe in scores of clinical trials. Thus, if umbilical cord-derived mesenchymal stem cells can improve regulatory T cell function in patients with MS, the impact could be beneficial to help improve multiple sclerosis symptoms.
Reference: Yang, H., et al. (2016). Umbilical cord-derived mesenchymal stem cells reversed the suppressive deficiency of T regulatory cells from peripheral blood of patients with multiple sclerosis in a co-culture – a preliminary study. Oncotarget 2016; 7:72537-72545.
The most common form of multiple sclerosis is a relapsing-remitting MS. In relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis, patients have relatively quiet, healthy times interrupted by disease flares. MS flares can cause many different neurological symptoms. The disease can interfere with any number of bodily processes, from walking to seeing, to urinating.
For many years, the only treatments available for relapsing-remitting MS were steroids or other powerful medications that had troubling side effects. Recently, disease-modifying drugs have become available that extend the times in between flares. Steroids are still used to treat disease flares, but disease-modifying drugs seem to make those flares occur less often.
One way that scientists judge the value of disease-modifying therapy for relapsing-remitting MS is to see how long it can prevent relapse. For example, researchers divide a group of patients into two groups, give each group a different treatment, and track to see the time until a relapse occurs.
Researchers took this same scientific approach to compare disease-modifying therapy to nonmyeloablative hematopoietic stem cell transplantation which is the infusion of stem cells without destroying the patient’s existing bone marrow and stem cells with chemotherapy. The results were published in the prestigious Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).
The scientists from hospitals and institutions around the world followed about 100 women with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis. Half received disease-modifying therapy, which is the current standard of care, while the other half received stem cell therapy.
During the first year of the study, the symptoms were more severe in patients who received disease-modifying therapy. This was expected since patients with this form of MS tend to get worse over time. Impressively, the group who received stem cell treatment had less severe symptoms than when they started a year earlier.
Three patients who received stem cell therapy experienced disease progression; however, a staggering 34 patients in the disease-modifying group had disease progression. In other words, far fewer RRMS patients in the stem cell therapy group had disease progression than those receiving standard disease-modifying treatments.
The authors of this groundbreaking study mention that “further research is needed to replicate these findings,” presumably in a double-blind trial. Nevertheless, this is not a small study (~100 patients) and patients were followed for a very long time (5 years). As such, the results provide strong, preliminary evidence that stem cell therapy was more effective than disease-modifying therapy for patients with
Reference: Burt, R., et al. (2019). Effect of Nonmyeloablative Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation vs Continued Disease-Modifying Therapy on Disease Progression in Patients With Relapsing-Remitting Multiple Sclerosis. JAMA. 2019;321(2):165-174.
Multiple sclerosis is a challenging disease for patients, caregivers, and physicians. MS takes function away from patients, causing them to lose the ability to walk, to feel, or to see. The symptoms of MS vary from patient to patient. In fact, the symptoms of multiple sclerosis can even change in the same patient over time. Wherever MS destroys covering on nerve cells, there are the symptoms of the disease. These functional deficits are challenging for caregivers who provide support for patients. MS is also challenging for physicians because it is a difficult disease to treat.
Several disease-modifying treatments have been released over the past decade that has changed the course of MS for some patients. None is a cure. As such, researchers are continually looking for new treatments for multiple sclerosis.
One of the more promising potential MS treatments is thymosin beta 4. Thymosin beta 4 is a small protein (i.e. peptide) that the body produces naturally. When the protein is injected into animals, it produces regenerative and restorative benefits such as improved wound repair and blood vessel and nerve regeneration.
When scientists want to test new treatments for MS, they often use a model of the disease called experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE). When researchers cause EAE in mice, it causes the mice to experience symptoms and changes that are quite similar to MS in humans. Once mice are given EAE, scientists can then see if a particular treatment can make the mice better.
This is precisely what Dr. Zhang and co-researchers accomplished; they caused experimental MS in mice and treated them with either thymosin beta 4 or placebo (saline) injections. Mice began recovering from EAE as early as 11 days after treatment with thymosin beta 4. Thymosin beta 4 treatment reduced the severity of experimental MS in mice by about half compared to those who received a placebo. The statistically significant benefit lasted at least 30 days after thymosin beta 4 treatment.
The researchers performed additional experiments to determine how thymosin beta 4 improved function in mice with EAE. Based on experiments in mouse nerve cells, thymosin beta 4 appears to reduce inflammation and increase oligodendrogenesis, which is the growth of new cells the replace the covering on nerves.
While this work was performed on mice and will need to be confirmed in humans, it is an exciting lead in the development of new therapies for MS. Since thymosin beta 4 appears to be safe, this small protein may one day be among the disease-modifying treatments for MS.
Reference: Zhang, J., et al. (2009). Neurological Functional Recovery After Thymosin Beta4 Treatment in Mice with Experimental Auto Encephalomyelitis. Neuroscience. 2009 Dec 29; 164(4): 1887-1893.