Stem cell therapies hold enormous potential to address some of the most tragic illnesses, diseases, and tissue defects world-wide. However, the inability to target cells to tissues of interest poses a significant barrier to effective cell therapy. To address this hurdle, researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) have developed a platform approach to chemically incorporate homing receptors onto the surface of cells. This simple approach has the potential to improve the efficacy of many types of cell therapies by increasing the concentrations of cells at target locations in the body.
These findings are published online in the journal Blood on October 27, 2011.
For this new platform, researchers engineered the surface of cells to include receptors that act as a homing device. “The central hypothesis of our work is that the ability of cells to home to specific tissues can be enhanced, without otherwise altering cell function,” said Jeffrey M. Karp, HMS assistant professor of medicine and co-director of the Regenerative Therapeutics Center at BWH and “By knowing the ‘zip code’ of the blood vessels in specific tissues, we can program the ‘address’ onto the surface of the cells to potentially target them with high efficiencies.”
While conventional cell therapies that include local administration of cells can be useful, they are typically more invasive with limited potential for multiple doses. “You can imagine, that when the targeted tissue is cardiac muscle, for example to treat heart attacks or heart failure, injecting the cells directly into the heart can be an invasive procedure and typically this approach can only be performed once,” said Dr. Karp, also a principal faculty member of the Harvard Stem Cell Institute and affiliate faculty at Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology.
Adapted from a Brigham and Women’s Hospital news release. For the complete story, please visit the BW newsroom
Brigham and Women’s Hospital is a teaching affiliate of Harvard Medical School