Vector is Children’s Hospital Boston’s blog about research and innovation in pediatric and adult medicine. We report and comment on medical innovations and advances – from bench to bedside – touching on scientific, business and policy issues. Our ranks include science writers, physicians, lab researchers, market analysts and others inside and outside the hospital.
Joseph Caputo originally wrote this post for the Harvard Stem Cell Institute (HSCI). Vector editor Nancy Fliesler contributed.
Stem cell scientists had what first appeared to be an easy win for regenerative medicine when they discovered mesenchymal stem cells several decades ago. These cells, found in the bone marrow, can give rise to bone, fat and muscle tissue, and have been used in hundreds of clinical trials for tissue repair.
Uses range from tissue protection in heart attack and stroke to immune modification in multiple sclerosis and diabetes. Unfortunately, the results of these trials have been underwhelming. One challenge is that these stem cells don’t stick around in the body long enough to benefit the patient.
But scientists at the Harvard Stem Cell Institute (HSCI) and Boston Children’s Hospital aren’t ready to give up. A research team led by Juan Melero-Martin, PhD, with surgical research fellow Ruei-Zeng Lin, PhD, recently found that transplanting mesenchymal stem cells along with blood vessel-forming cells, naturally found in the circulation, improves results. This co-transplantation keeps the mesenchymal stem cells alive longer in mice – up to a few weeks compared to hours – giving the mesenchymal stem cells sufficient time to display their full regenerative potential, generating new bone or fat tissue.