Smart Stem Cells Made From Fat Have the Power to Heal
A new type of stem cell – that is, a cell with regenerative abilities – could be closer on the horizon, a new study led by UNSW Sydney shows. The stem cells (called induced multipotent stem cells, or iMS) can be made from easily accessible human cells – in this case, fat – and reprogrammed to act as stem cells.
The results of the animal study, which created human stem cells and tested their effectiveness in mice, were published online in Science Advances – and while the results are encouraging, more research and tests are needed before any potential translation to human therapies.
The smart stem cells, made from human fat, adapt to their surroundings to repair damaged tissue.
“The stem cells we’ve developed can adapt to their surroundings and repair a range of damaged tissues,” says haematologist John Pimanda, a professor at UNSW Medicine & Health and co-senior author of the study. “To my knowledge, no one has made an adaptive human multipotent stem cell before. This is uncharted territory.”
The scientists created the iMS cells in a lab by exposing human fat cells to a compound mixture that caused the cells to lose their original identity. This process also erased ‘silencing marks’ – marks responsible for restricting cell identity. The researchers injected the human iMS cells into mice where they stayed dormant – at first. But, when the mice had an injury, the stem cells adapted to their surroundings and transformed into the tissue that needed repairing, be it muscle, bone, cartilage, or blood vessels.
“The stem cells acted like chameleons,” says lead author Dr Avani Yeola, a post-doctoral stem cell researcher in Prof. Pimanda’s laboratory. Dr Yeola conducted this work as part of her doctoral thesis at UNSW Medicine & Health. “They followed local cues to blend into the tissue that required healing.”