One of the biggest obstacles to transplanting organs from one person to another is that the immune system of the person getting the new life-saving organ often tries to reject it. The immune cells see the new material as “foreign” and attacks it, sometimes destroying it.
Right now, the only way to prevent that is by using powerful immunosuppressive drugs to keep the patient’s immune system at bay and protect the new organ. It’s effective, but it also comes with some long-term health consequences.
But now researchers at Tel Aviv University in Israel say they may have found a way around that, using the patient’s own stem cells.
The team says it was able to take fatty tissue from patients and, using the iPSC procedure, turn them into other kinds of cells to help repair different kinds of tissue.
In a story in the “Times of Israel”, Prof Tal Dvir, the lead researcher, said this new approach could theoretically be used to engineer any tissue type in the body.
“We were able to create a personalized hydrogel from the materials of the biopsy, to differentiate fatty tissue cells into different cell types and to engineer cardiac, spinal cord, cortical and other tissue implants to treat different diseases. Since both the cells and the material used derive from the patient, the implant does not provoke an immune response, ensuring proper regeneration of the defected organ.”
Dvir says the research, published in the journal Advanced Materials, has only been tested in animals so far but has shown great promise, helping regenerate damaged tissues in mice and rats. Their next goal is to see if they can replicate this in people.
“Theoretically we can work in every disease or disorder that cells are involved in, where tissue is dying. We can create the tissue to fix that injury by a simple injection of materials and cells at the injury site,”
While this has long been a goal of many stem cell researchers around the world, problems translating what looks good in animals into what works in people has invariably slowed down the progress of even the most promising approach. At least so far.