Calling Forth the Body's Own Stem Cells Could Speed Tissue Repair

By Eliza Strickland | January 9, 2009 4:32 pm

stem cells bone marrowResearchers have coaxed a mouse into releasing a flood of stem cells from its bone marrow, and say these extra stem cells may then hustle off to repair damaged tissue. If this technique proves effective for repairing damage and can be transfered to humans, researchers say it could help mend everything from broken bones to damaged hearts. Says lead researcher Sara Rankin: “Suppose a person comes in to hospital having had a heart attack. You give them these drugs and stem cells are quickly released into the blood. We know they will naturally home in on areas of damage, so if you’ve got a broken bone, or you’ve had a heart attack, the stem cells will go there. In response to a heart attack, you’d accelerate the repair process” [The Guardian].

Researchers say this approach would be a more direct and less controversial way to get stem cells to patients. Instead of injecting patients with stem cells from donors, embryos or stem cell banks, doctors could simply inject the drugs and the patients would produce the cells themselves. This would avoid complications of tissue rejection and sidestep ethical objections to using stem cells originating from embryos. “It’s promoting self-healing,” says Sara Rankin…. “We’re simply boosting what’s going on naturally” [New Scientist].

In the study, reported in the journal Cell Stem Cell, researchers used two drugs to prompt the flood of stem cells. The first drug, a growth factor, spurred the mouse’s bone marrow to produce more stem cells, while the second drug caused the cells to spill out into the bloodstream. Researchers have previously used a similar process to trigger the release of stem cells that grow into blood cells, but with this new drug combination Rankin’s team provoked the release of mesenchymal stem cells, which promote the repair of bone and tissue, and epithelial progenitor cells, which stimulate the growth of blood vessels.

Rankin says the next step is to test whether flooding the blood with these stem cells really does accelerate the repair of damaged tissue, but some experts say that it’s far from certain that she’ll get such a positive result. Says stem cell expert Paul Fairchild: “Mobilizing those stem cells is an enormously important first step, but it’s only a first step…. It’s expecting an enormous amount for those stem cells to then find their way into a lesion, then to differentiate properly into the cell type that’s required, to become integrated functionally and to survive” [CNN].

Related Content:
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80beats: Lab-Grown Red Blood Cells Could Allow for “Blood Farms”
80beats: Researchers Grow a Blood Vessel Network From a Few “Progenitor” Cells

Image: Imperial College London (a stem cell emerging from the bone marrow)

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Health & Medicine
  • Josh

    It’s excellent that our bodies might have untapped healing potential available with just a little…coaxing. Though somewhat depressing that they can’t figure it out for themselves.

  • nick

    Re: Josh – probably to prevent weird stuff like cancers growing in case the stem cells get bored and try to foment a revolution. Or it’s DNA’s only way of ensuring a new generation is made – if we healed instantly and quickly and stayed relatively young for a long time, we’d evolve much slower. The good news is we will take control of our evolution soon.

  • Nick

    Well this article was just great till the last paragraph. It was all positive and then BOOM that guy says it won’t work. Hopefully they’ll prove him wrong.

  • Nick

    @ nick (2 above this post)
    I liked your post..”stem cells get bored and try to foment a revolution”
    funny but true

  • Takeli

    Stem cells can be directed and guided to the appropriate place – everything has consciousness, and can be communicated with, including the cells of the body. We guide our bodies each day to do certain things, unconsciously…we have a lot more power than we are trained to believe we have, in our overly physcial/mental paradigms of how things operate, and can consciously create what seem to be miracles.

    Go to http// to learn about Signature Cell Healing, which moves stem cells to where they need most to be – it is the way of the future. Kahu Fred Sterling, founder of this healing process, used it to heal his massive stroke, which left him with only 20% blood to brain on one side – the other shut down…walked out of the hospital 3 days later. Took a while to recover fully, still, impressive! and he is fine today, words a bit slower is all.

    Love and Blessings,


  • Jumblepudding

    ^ ^
    Stem cells even have their own kooky cult. Who knew?

  • Josh

    @ Nick: Very good point.

  • Barbara

    What is really important is the HEALTH of the newly formed and released stem cells. Several published studies show that nutrition is key in the production, release, and health of adult stem cells.

  • linda

    to me it just shows how really little we still understand about the complexity of our bodies’ systems. if we respect the process more, and try to work with it and support it, by exercise, nutrition, water, oxygen and a good attitude, instead of fighting it with fear, drugs whose full power may not be known, bad food or drinks, polluted air and smoke–who knows how healthy we can all be and what degenerative diseases we can avoid!

  • joey r.

    I think if we can figure out how to get stem cells from mice that would be a great medical find. I disagree completely with using stem cells from aborted fetus’.

  • byron t

    very good point

  • Shawntia R

    I totally diagree with this completely the whole idea of using stems from aborted fetuses. Thats so DURN stupid and ignorant who in tha….. would do that!!!!!!!!!

  • Kari M.

    cool headline…………………..

  • Laura M.

    wow i stem cell research has gone a long way that’s pretty neat

  • Maria P

    im suprised with all the information they got

  • Claire Mandeville

    As a holistic nutritionist, I am delighted to use (personally and with clients) a very effective natural product, called StemPlex™ – is a unique combination of natural ingredients that have been found to work synergistically to support the growth of adult stem cells. The StemPlex formula helps this process in two ways. First, the ingredients provide nutrition for stem cells to reproduce. Second, via its antioxidant capacity, the formula protects existing stem cells from the harmful effects of free radicals; this is especially important because during the natural aging process, adult stem cells are known to have a reduced regenerative capacity. Find information at:

  • Chubbee

    Of coarse it’s OK to abort a fetus, it’s just not OK to use the stem cells. (the preceding was asarcastic message)


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