Fermenters and bioreactors alongside the new steps in modern medicine treatments
The purpose of the latest generation of embryonic stem cell biotech research is to delve into cellular differentiation, that occurs within the human body, and how it can be safely mimicked artificially to provide targeted medical care.
The findings mark a major step in regenerative medicine toward using stem cells to treat disease. These cells are reverse engineered to be reproduced by adult tissue cells rather than by live human or animal embryos.
The new research therefore seeks to investigate not only how blood stem cell precursors arise in animals and humans, but how they can be artificially induced.
The study by researchers from the UNSW School of Biomedical Engineering demonstrates how simulating, in the laboratory, the beating heart of an embryo through microfluidic devices, it can lead to the development of human blood stem cell precursors that can potentially become blood stem cells in the short term period.
In the study, the researchers described how a 3 cm x 3 cm microfluidic system pumped blood stem cells produced from an embryonic stem cell line to mimic an embryo's heartbeat and blood circulation conditions.
"So we made a device that mimics the heartbeat and blood circulation and an orbital shaking system that causes shear stress - or friction - of blood cells as they move through the device or around a plate" said Jingjing Li, lead author.
The bioprocess created blood stem cell precursors that continued to produce differentiated blood cells, thereby creating tissue cells from the embryonic heart environment. Blood stem cells, when formed in the embryo, form in the wall of the main vessel: the aorta. They leave this aorta entering into circulation, arriving to the liver , and forming what is called definitive hematopoiesis, or definitive blood formation.
"What we have shown is that we can generate a cell that can form all different types of blood cells. We have also shown that it is closely related to the cells that line the aorta - so we know its origin is correct - and that it proliferates".
There are big studies undergoing about emulating embryonic heart conditions with this mechanical device. The goal is to find a solution to the challenges limiting regenerative medical treatments today: shortage of donor blood stem cells, rejection of donor tissue cells, and the ethical issues surrounding the use of IVF embryos.
The solution lies in a clear and important difference: the blood stem cells used in transplants require donors with the same type of tissue as the patient. The production of blood stem cells from pluripotent stem cell lines, on the other hand, would obviate the need to search for tissue-compatible donors to supply them and this would be enough to cure many blood cancers and genetic diseases.
How can this biotech opportunity be guaranteed to the world?
Researchers, following the creation, work to increase the production of these cells by using fermenters and bioreactors. Complex systems that by recreating the ideal environment for proliferation, allow the reproduction and multiplication of organisms and cells through bioprocessing.
This knowledge could help cancer patients, among others, undergoing high doses of radium and chemotherapy, to replenish their depleted blood stem cells.