How To Lure Stem Cells To A Specific Location Without Causing Inflammation

Transplanted stem cells instigate healing only after they reach a repair site, or “pathologic niche.” To help transplanted stem cells find their way, scientists have considered exploiting a natural inflammo-attraction system. It guides stem cells to inflammatory signals emitted by damaged tissue. The system, however, has usually been deemed too hot, that is, too apt to worsen inflammation and harm the body.

If only it were possible to shed the “inflammo” part of inflammo-attraction. Then, therapeutic stem cells could be deployed like smart bombs—except that they’d provide more balm than blam.

Neural stem cells maturing into astrocytes (yellow). [Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute]

The possibility has been investigated by scientists at Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute (SBP). In a recent study, they reported that they modified an inflammatory “homing” molecule to create a drug that enhances stem cell binding and minimizes inflammatory signaling. They assert that this drug, which is called SDV1a, can be injected anywhere to lure stem cells to a specific location without causing inflammation.

Details appeared online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).