Certain jobs, such as construction work and sand blasting, are quite labor intensive but can also lead to some unexpected health complications down the road. One of these is called silicosis, a serious lung disease that affects millions of workers worldwide. It is the result of years of breathing in silica, a type of dust particle most commonly found in sand. The particles can cause inflammation and scarring of the lung tissue, which can lead to trouble breathing and death in the most severe cases. There is currently no cure for this condition and once the damage is done it cannot be reversed.
However, Dr. Patricia Rocco and Dr. Fernanda Cruz from the Laboratory of Pulmonary Investigation at Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro, Brazil have found a promising approach to treat silicosis that involves the use of stem cells and magnetization.
In this study, mesenchymal stromal cells (MSCs), a type of stem cell that has anti-inflammatory properties, were magnetized using specialized nanoparticles. The effects of the newly magnetized MSCs were then studied in mice in which silicosis was induced to see if magnetization could aid in delivery to the lungs. One group of mice was injected with saline (as a control study) while another group was injected with the magnetized MSCs. A third group of mice was injected with magnetized MSCs with a pair of magnets attached to their chest for 2 days. The results showed that using the magnetized MSCs alongside the magnets proved to be most effective in migrating the cells towards the lungs.
In a news release, Dr. Cruz elaborated on their findings for this portion of the study.
“Upon removal of the magnets, we examined all the animals in all the groups and found that those implanted with magnets had a significantly larger amount of magnetized MSCs in their lungs.”
For the next portion of the study, the team compared treatments in mice using magnetized MSCs with magnets vs non-magnetized MSCs. After 7 days, the magnets were removed from the mice with magnetized MSCs and their lungs were evaluated. It was found that those treated with magnetized MSCs and magnets showed significant signs of lung improvement while the other mice did not.
In the same news release, Dr. Rocco discusses the implications that these results have in terms of developing a potential treatment.
“This tells us that magnetic targeting may be a promising strategy for enhancing the beneficial effects of MSC-based cell therapies for silicosis and other chronic lung diseases.”
The full results of this study were published in Stem Cells Translational Medicine (SCTM).
CIRM has recently funded a clinical trial that uses MSCs to treat patients with acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), a life-threatening lung injury that occurs when fluid leaks into the lungs, in both COVID-19 positive and COVID-19 negative patients.
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Stem cells are capable of self-renewal, proliferate further to produce the functionally mature, postmitotic cells required to replace those lost through injury or damage. Stem cells are moveable, they interact with growth factors on the surface of other cells or intracellular matrix. Binding of growth factors to the specific receptor may trigger signal transduction system, with which a number of defied changes in biological cell are associated. These include gene expression, proliferation and differentiation. The development of stem cells from premature to mature stage requires many stages of maturation. In each stage , there is the event of new gene(s) expression, followed by the cycle of growth and differentiation of progenitors into more mature cells. Finally, the newly differentiated cells might change their response to other growth factors before entering the next stage. Therefore, the high frequency of movement and interaction of progenitor stem cells with the growth factors are observed in early development. The late stage of progenitor stem cells are more mature, active, functional and express more surface molecules to interact with other cells or intracellular matrix for adherence.
Magnetic targeting(MT) MSCs are limited from movement. A small amount of growth factors in vivo restricts MT-MSCs from completing the all stages of maturation. The additional supply of diverse growth factors is essential to support MT-MSCs to growth into fully mature and functioning cells.