Archive for January, 2013|Monthly archive page




Stem cell transplant for sickle cell patients

“A possible cure for a debilitating disease, it strikes one in 500 African Americans. Many live day-to-day on heavy painkillers. Now a new take on an old treatment may put an end to their suffering.  Dr. Damiano Rondelli, University of Illinois Hospital Hematologist: “It’s a social issue. It’s not just a medical issue. The cost, the family involvement … it’s a really big deal.”

“It is sickle cell anemia, an inherited defect of the red blood cells. More rigid than normal round cells, the crescent – or sickle-shaped cells — get stuck in small vessels, blocked from delivering oxygen to organs, tissues and joints.

“Damage to lungs, kidneys, liver. The major symptom is pain.”Said Dr. Rondelli

Julius Means, sickle cell patient: “Some of my first memories having sickle cell, playing one day and the next day not being able to even walk.”

Diagnosed at eight-months-old, Julius has struggled with sickle cell disease for 25 years.

Julius Means: “In and out of hospitals all the time. The majority of the pain would hit me in my legs and my back. So being a young kid and not being able to play with the other kids was pretty awful.”

Beverly Means, mother: “It was mental torture. It was hard. Devastating to watch your kids and you can do nothing.”

Even doctors struggle — they have little to offer. Narcotic pain killers and blood transfusions help but offer only temporary relief. So when an NIH stem cell transplant study showed promise, University of Illinois Hospital’s Dr. Damiano Rondelli took notice. “They reported they could do transplant in sickle cell patients without using chemotherapy.”

In a stem cell transplant, doctors infuse healthy donor cells that gradually take over the recipient’s bone marrow to produce normal red blood cells. Traditionally, the process starts with high doses of chemotherapy to kill off a patient’s own cells and prep the body to accept the new ones – a practice deemed too dangerous for those with sickle cell who already have organ damage. But the NIH study used more tolerable and less toxic immunosuppressing drugs in place of chemo.

Dr. Rondelli: “The results were amazing. Because of our large patient population of sickle cell, we opened the trial here.”

That’s when the Means brothers jumped in. But they would need a highly compatible donor – a sibling. They turned to their big brother, Clifford. Doctors quickly tested his blood.

Beverly Means: “He was like, ‘You’re not going to believe it! He’s not only a match for Desmond but for Julius also.’ Ten for 10 perfect match for both brothers.”

Julius Means: “Wow, all this time we had the cure!”

Dr. Rondelli: “The cells in the blood, the red cells are completely from the donor. The sickle cell is gone.”


Sickle Cell Anemia Disease Description

Sickle cell anemia is an inherited blood disorder characterized primarily by chronic anemia and periodic episodes of pain. The underlying problem involves hemoglobin, a component of red blood cells. Hemoglobin molecules in each red blood cell carry oxygen from the lungs to body organs and tissues and bring carbon dioxide back to the lungs.  In sickle cell anemia, the hemoglobin is defective. After hemoglobin molecules give up their oxygen, some may cluster together and form long, rod-like structures. These structures cause red blood cells to become stiff and assume a sickle shape. Unlike normal red cells, which are usually smooth and donut-shaped, sickled red cells cannot squeeze through small blood vessels. Instead, they stack up and cause blockages that deprive organs and tissues of oxygen-carrying blood. This process produces periodic episodes of pain and ultimately can damage tissues and vital organs and lead to other serious medical problems. Normal red blood cells live about 120 days in the bloodstream, but sickled red cells die after about 10 to 20 days. Because they cannot be replaced fast enough, the blood is chronically short of red blood cells, a condition called anemia.





Stem Cells Aid Recovery from Stroke, Study Suggests

Jan. 28, 2013 — Stem cells from bone marrow or fat improve recovery after stroke in rats, finds a study published in BioMed Central’s open access journal Stem Cell Research & Therapy. Treatment with stem cells improved the amount of brain and nerve repair and the ability of the animals to complete behavioural tasks.

Stem cell therapy holds promise for patients but there are many questions which need to be answered, regarding treatment protocols and which cell types to use. This research attempts to address some of these questions.

Rats were treated intravenously with stem cells or saline 30 minutes after a stroke. At 24 hours after stroke the stem cell treated rats showed a better functional recovery. By two weeks these animals had near normal scores in the tests. This improvement was seen even though the stem cells did not appear to migrate to the damaged area of brain. The treated rats also had higher levels of biomarkers implicated in brain repair including, the growth factor VEGF.

A positive result was seen for both fat (adipose) and bone-marrow derived stem cells. Dr Exuperio Díez-Tejedor from La Paz University Hospital, explained, “Improved recovery was seen regardless of origin of the stem cells, which may increase the usefulness of this treatment in human trials. Adipose-derived cells in particular are abundant and easy to collect without invasive surgery.”  (sciencedaily.com)


“The ease of collection, and the ability to use “allogenic” cells from other rats rather than having to harvest the animal’s own cells and culture them, meant a treatment was available not weeks after a stroke, when the damage was done, but in this case minutes.

“From the viewpoint of clinical translation allogenic stem cells are attractive because they can be easily obtained from young healthy donors, amplified, and stored for immediate use when needed after a stroke.”  They suggested that it might be possible to overcome the risk of immune rejection of the donor cells in humans.”  (bbc.co.uk/news/health)




Doctors Perform First FDA Approved Schwann Cell Transplant in Patient with New Spinal Cord Injury

Doctors at The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis, a Center of Excellence at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, performed the first-ever Food and Drug Administration approved Schwann cell transplantation in a patient with a new spinal cord injury. The procedure, performed at the University of Miami/Jackson Memorial Medical Center, is a Phase 1 clinical trial designed to evaluate the safety and feasibility of transplanting the patient’s own Schwann cells.

“This historic clinical trial represents a giant step forward in a field of medicine where each tangible step has tremendous value. This trial, and these first patients in this trial specifically, are extremely important to our mission of curing paralysis,” said neurosurgeon Barth Green, M.D., Co-Founder and Chairman of The Miami Project, and Professor and Chair of Neurological Surgery. “The Miami Project team includes hundreds of scientists, clinicians, and technicians who have joined hands to make the ‘impossible possible,’ for which this trial is a key goal and dream now being realized. This achievement reaffirms that the tens of millions of dollars and the incalculable work hours were well invested in this first of a kind human Schwann cell project.”

Led by W. Dalton Dietrich, Ph.D., Scientific Director of The Miami Project and Professor of Neurological Surgery, Neurology and Cell Biology & Anatomy, the Schwann cell clinical trial team at The Miami Project is composed of a multidisciplinary group of basic science and clinical faculty members, scientific staff, and regulatory personnel focused on advancing the trial. The transplantation procedure was conducted by the Principal Investigators of the trial, Dr. Allan Levi, M.D., Ph.D., Professor of Neurological Surgery, Orthopedic, and Rehabilitation, and James Guest, M.D., Ph.D., Associate Professor of Neurological Surgery. The patient had a neurologically complete thoracic spinal injury and received the transplantation of autologous Schwann cells about four weeks post-injury. There have been no adverse events and the team is moving forward with the trial.


This image shows a cultured Schwann cell stained for the actin cytoskeleton with phalloidin-Rd.


“a cell that forms spiral layers around a myelinated nerve fiber between two nodes of Ranvier and forms the myelin sheath consisting of the inner spiral layers from which the protoplasm has been squeezed out.”   (Source)

“As a basic scientist, the hope is always to increase knowledge and discovery,” said Dietrich. “Not every day are you able to see that translated into the clinical realm with the hopes of bettering the lives of those suffering, so this Phase I clinical trial is a vital step for the field of SCI research, and for The Miami Project team that has been working diligently on this therapeutic concept for more than a quarter of a century. This trial, when completed successfully, will lay the critical foundation for future cell-based therapies to target spinal cord injuries.”

The Miami Project clinical trial will enroll a total of eight participants with acute thoracic SCI. Newly injured patients brought to the trauma center would have to meet the stringent inclusion criteria. The participants will undergo a biopsy of a sensory nerve in one leg to obtain the tissue from which to grow their own Schwann cells. The Schwann cells are then grown in a state-of-the art culturing facility for three to five weeks to generate the number of cells necessary for transplantation, and to undergo the strict purification process. By the time the Schwann cells are surgically transplanted into the injury site, participants will be 26-42 days post-injury.

All procedures will be conducted at UM/Jackson and The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis, with colleagues at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. Each participant will be followed intensively for one year after receiving the transplantation surgery, and their neurologic status, medical status, pain symptoms, and muscle spasticity will be evaluated. It is expected that it could be two to three years from the time the first subject is enrolled until the final subject is one year post-transplantation. All participants will continue to be monitored for an additional four years under a separate clinical protocol. This Phase I trial is the foundation upon which The Miami Project will develop future cell transplant trials targeting different types of injuries, times post-injury, and therapeutic combinations.

Posted on January 24, 2013 By Neuroscience News Featured, Neurology (Source)

Stem cells VS chemo resistant metastatic esophageal cancer?



“…chemo resistant metastatic esophageal cancer…”

I was recently contacted by a patient with chemo resistant metastatic esophageal cancer.  This is the 2nd patient in a row with this condition.  The prior one presented with stage 4 esophageal cancer. We had to determine if the cancer is/is not in the bone marrow to assess how much it has metastasized or whether it is localized to the esophagus. In any case, the first patient was treated with the protocol I posted previously and it reduced the cancer cell markers by 40% within 3 weeks. The mesenchymal stem cells recruited NTK (Natural Killer Cells) which reduce the tumors and cancer cell markers. The patient is now 3 months post op (as of 1/26/13) and is doing extremely well. He is at Stage 1 down from Stage 4. He has decided to receive a second treatment and we are hopeful he will retain full remission.
– DG

Stem cells for cancer? Yes.

This works because:
“…tumor-oriented homing capacity of mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs), the application of specific anticancer gene-engineered MSCs has held great potential for cancer therapies. The dual-targeted strategy is based on MSCs’ capacity of tumor-directed migration and incorporation and in situ expression of tumor-specific anticancer genes.”
From http://www.wjgnet.com/1948-0210/pdf/v3/i11/96.pdf

Look for this article and others on my blog: repairstemcell.wordpress.com





“Adult stem cells are derived from blood, umbilical cords, bone marrow, placenta, fat tissue, muscle, nasal neurological, breast milk, menstruation, dental pulp, lungs, eyes, pancreas and many more locations. While some are better than others for regenerative treatment, it has long been believed that those cells derived from reproductive associated organs are some of the most powerful.  This study shows that umbilical cord derived stem cells are not as great as once believed.”

In fact, compared to the 100% of mesenchymal stem cells found in cells derived from adipose (fat), only 67% of cord blood stem cells are mesenchymal and lend themselves toward regenerative treatments.*  While bone marrow derived stem cells also have 100% mesenchymal cells, they have reduced proliferation and have a history of causing malignant cells – ‘In addition, Izadpanah et al.** demonstrated that long-term cultivation of MSC beyond passage 20 may result in their transformation to malignant cells.”***

For regenerative medicine, nothing beats adipose derived stem cells. -dg


Only A Specific Group Of Cord Blood Stem Cells Found To Be Efficient For Use In Regenerative Medicine

Scientists at the University of Granada and Alcala de Henares University have found that not all isolated stem cells are equally valid in regenerative medicine and tissue engineering. In a paper recently published in the prestigious journal Tissue Engineering the researchers report that, contrary to what was thought, only a specific group of cord blood stem cells (CB-SC) maintained in culture are useful for therapeutic purposes.

At present, CB-SCs are key to regenerative medicine and tissue engineering. From all types of CB-SC those called “Wharton’s jelly stem cells (HWJSC)” are stirring up the interest of specialists in regenerative medicine, due to their accessibility and great ability to develop into several types of tissue and modulate immune responses.

Through a combination of microscopy and microanalysis essays, and the study of the genes involved in cell viability, the researchers discovered that only a specific group of cord blood stem cells (CB-SC) maintained in culture is useful for therapeutic purposes

The Most Suitable Cells

The relevance of this paper, which was the cover article in the journal Tissue Engineering, lies in the possibility to select the most suitable HWJSC for tissue engineering and regenerative medicine. According to these researchers, the different studies with HWJSC have obtained contradictory results because researchers failed to previously select the most suitable cell group.

The results of this study also open the possibility to select stem cell subgroups from different tissues, in order to improve the therapeutical efficacy of different regenerative medicine protocols.

This research study was conducted by the Tissue Engineering research group at the University of Granada Histology Department coordinated by professor Antonio Campos Muñoz, who recently created artificial skin and a cornea by using stem cells and new biomaterials developed in Granada.

The research group is also composed of professors Alaminos Mingorance and Ingrid Garzón. Professor Garzon was awarded a prize at the World Congress on Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine held in Seul for a preliminary study on the same issue.


* , *** Stem Cells. 2006 May;24(5):1294-301. Epub 2006 Jan 12.

** – Izadpanah R, Kaushal D, Kriedt C, Tsien F, Patel B, Dufour J, Bunnell BA. Long-term in vitro expansion alters the biology of adult mesenchymal stem cells. Cancer Res.                                                           2008;68:4229–4238.


In ALL ARTICLES, STEM CELLS IN THE NEWS on January 25, 2013 at 9:05 am

One day, people will use stem cell treatments as the first course of action instead of the last and save themselves a lot of money, time and suffering.  We can only hope! – DG

“I need money for my stem cell transplant. That’s kind of my last option. I’ve tried everything else.” – Cat David

Cat Davis

Cat Davis receives stem cell transplant

Published On: Jan 24 2013 04:43:05 AM PST  Updated On: Jan 24 2013 04:40:32 PM PST

SPOKANE, Wash. –

It’s an incredible day of victory for a Spokane woman, who thought she may not live to see it. Cat Davis, whose story we’ve been following since last fall, has now received the stem-cell transplant that will likely save her life.

Four months ago, it looked like today would never come. Four months ago, Cat sat in her North Spokane living room and said, “I need money for my stem cell transplant. That’s kind of my last option. I’ve tried everything else.”

Scleroderma had taken so much away from the vibrant woman in her mid-20’s. Her skin and organs have been hardening for years, her esophagus was so narrowed, she couldn’t eat solid foods. Every day was a race against the clock. If the disease goes too far in her heart and lungs, there’s nothing they can do. Time and money were against her. So were the odds.

Spokane rallied. Through coffee and pizza and fun runs and ice cream, the community raised more than $170,000 to help pay for the transplant and other medical expenses. They were touched by her smile and positive attitude. Her story stretched around the world.

Thursday morning in a hospital room in Chicago, Cat got that stem-cell transplant, marking the first day of the rest of her life.

“Transplant is complete! Cat has 14.2 million brand new baby cells circulating in her blood stream It all went as planned.” Cat’s mom Sally emailed those words to Cat’s friends and family Thursday morning. The past few days have been hell for Cat, as chemotherapy killed off her immune system and made her terribly sick. Cat’s mom counted down the days leading to transplant day as “minus one” and “minus two” and so forth.

Thursday, a new day.

“A long battle lies ahead,” Sally wrote. “We will win the victory. This is Day 0. From now on we count the days as pluses. No more minuses.”

Now, the recovery. Cat will spend the next 10 days or so in Chicago, recovering. Then, it’s back to Spokane for a long road to full strength. Cat and her family feel the love and prayers all the way from Spokane. Cat’s family and friends decorated her room with purple hearts, made at Ben and Jerry’s in Spokane during a fundraising drive last year.

“We have saved them all this time for this day,” Sally Davis wrote. “They are precious. One of my favorite says, “Fight like a girl!”

She’s been fighting long enough. Now, it’s time for Cat to rest and get well. And, know that everyone in Spokane is behind her.

Her journey so far has touched so many lives. Now, it’s time to save her own.


In ALL ARTICLES, OFF THE BEATEN PATH on January 25, 2013 at 8:10 am
Neuroplasticity: Brain and Heart Interaction
Arjun November 26, 2012 12

Modern science is progressing in its ability to understand the human brain and the way it functions in relation to the human being. Prior to Neuroplasticity, science assumed that the brain is the primary operating organ that determines everything about human behavior and action. Our brain is one of the most complex biological structures known to man, but science assumes that the brain drives thought, behavior, perception, emotion, disease and health. New discoveries within the  field of neuroscience are starting to illustrate how the brain  is taking instruction from something else. Neuroplasticity is the idea that the brain is adaptable and changeable. It’s now being used to treat learning disabilities, brain damage, chronic pain and more.

“The idea that the brain is plastic in the sense of changeable, adaptable and malleable. Is the single most important change in our understanding of the human brain in four hundred years. Neuroplasticity is that property of the brain that allows it to change it’s structure and it’s function, it’s a response to sensing and perceiving the world, even to thinking and imagining. Human thoughts and learning actually turn on certain genes in our nerve cells which allow those cells to make new connections between them” – Dr. Norman Doidge

Our brain shapes and reshapes itself given how we perceive the environment around us. This is also seen in Phenotypic plasticity, which is the ability of an organism to change it’s observable traits such as morphology, development, biochemical or physiological properties, as well as behavior. All of these things also result from the expression of an organisms genetic structure.   Most human beings have a very similar perception of the world, someone who perceives the world completely differently will have a different brain with different neurological connections and gene activation. If our brain shapes itself according to our thoughts and perception of the environment around us, then who is thinking the thoughts that cause our brain to react? Who is you? With so much information concealed from the human race, with so much information available that could change our perception of the planet concealed from us, what type of gene activation within our nerve cells lay dormant? Who you think you are is not actually you, because who you think you are can always change. The real you, the soul that lies within does not change, who you think you are might.

Our current perception of reality is one that includes consumerism and materialism. It is one of being born, going to school, working to make money, retire and more. We all have a collective perception of how the world is, we all have a similar idea of what the world is like and we all think that we have to follow the same path. Human beings are rapidly waking up to truth, in doing so we change our perception of how things are. Changing our thoughts alone, coupled with our changing perception is activating genes within our nerve cells giving rise to something new. Truth is, that things are not how they seem here on planet earth. The veil that’s been blinding the masses is being lifted, and according to neuroplasticity, a change in perception leads to gene activation.

What we should take away from plasticity is that we have the ability to change our brains, that thoughts and perception are directly responsible to how the brain functions. We should ask ourselves what influences our perception and what possibilities are available to us when we spark gene activation resulting from a paradigm change? We should also ask ourselves, where do our thoughts, feelings and emotions stem from that are responsible for triggering changes within our brain. We should ask ourselves where do our thoughts come from? Are they even our own? After all, consciousness creates reality Quantum double slit experiment





Stem Cell Research Helps to Identify Origins of Schizophrenia

Jan. 22, 2013 — New University at Buffalo research demonstrates how defects in an important neurological pathway in early development may be responsible for the onset of schizophrenia later in life.  The UB findings, published in Schizophrenia Research, test the hypothesis in a new mouse model of schizophrenia that demonstrates how gestational brain changes cause behavioral problems later in life — just like the human disease.

The genomic pathway, called the Integrative Nuclear FGFR 1 Signaling (INFS), is a central intersection point for multiple pathways of as many as 160 different genes believed to be involved in the disorder. “We believe this is the first model that explains schizophrenia from genes to development to brain structure and finally to behavior,” says lead author Michal Stachowiak, PhD, professor in the Department of Pathology and Anatomical Sciences in the UB School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. He also is director of the Stem Cell Engraftment & In Vivo Analysis Facility at the Western New York Stem Cell Culture and Analysis Center at UB.

“A key challenge with the disease is that patients with schizophrenia exhibit mutations in different genes, he says.   How is it possible to have 100 patients with schizophrenia and each one has a different genetic mutation that causes the disorder?” asks Stachowiak. “It’s possible because INFS integrates diverse neurological signals that control the development of embryonic stem cell and neural progenitor cells, and links pathways involving schizophrenia-linked genes.  INFS functions like the conductor of an orchestra,” explains Stachowiak. “It doesn’t matter which musician is playing the wrong note, it brings down the conductor and the whole orchestra. With INFS, we propose that when there is an alteration or mutation in a single schizophrenia-linked gene, the INFS system that controls development of the whole brain becomes un-tuned. That’s how schizophrenia develops.”

“Using embryonic stem cells, Stachowiak and colleagues at UB and other institutions found that some of the genes implicated in schizophrenia bind the FGFR1 (fibroblast growth factor receptor) protein, which in turn, has a cascading effect on the entire INFS.  “We believe that FGFR1 is the conductor that physically interacts with all genes that affect schizophrenia.  We think that schizophrenia occurs when there is a malfunction in the transition from stem cell to neuron, particularly with dopamine neurons”, said Stachowiak. The researchers tested their hypothesis by creating an FGFR1 mutation in mice, which produced the hallmarks of the human disease: altered brain anatomy, behavioral impacts and overloaded sensory processes.

“By attacking the INFS pathway, we were able to produce schizophrenia in mice.”  He adds that if such a generalized genomic pathway is causing the disease, then it should be possible to treat the disease with a more generalized approach. “We may even be able to devise ways to arrest development of the disease before it presents fully in adolescence or adulthood.”


For More articles on Schizophrenia, Click HERE


“Psychological disorder is a mental disorder that impacts on life and creates fake experiences. There are many kinds of psychological disorder such as anxiety, childhood, eating, and gender identity disorder. Schizophrenia is one of childhood disorder that is occurred where people have difficulty to distinguish their reality from unreal and fake experiences.” – http://dasolkimuou.wordpress.com/2012/11/21/what-is-schizophrenia/




Stem cells breathe new life into paralyzed gymnast

At the Dasara Games in September of 2010, a meticulous gymnast with the ambition to achieve the same stardom as his hero Ashish Kumar, met an untimely misfortune when mistiming a somersault during a practice routine.

“Ananth Rao’s head crashed on to the mat and he heard a cracking sound. His spine was shattered at the cervical region (C-6, C-7), paralyzing him for life. “I’ve always been told that one must learn from mistakes,” Ananth said. “One small mistake I made has cost me so much. I lost hope completely, I thought my life was over,” said the youngster, who was operated upon after his accident at the JSS Hospital in his hometown.  Although the doctors stabilized his neck, Ananth became a bedridden quadriplegic (all four limbs paralyzed) with no control over his bowel movements and was susceptible to a number of ailments.” He was forced to drop out of Mysore Maharaja College to focus on receiving vigorous physiotherapy and standard forms of treatment. But there was little improvement in his condition.  Just over a year after his accident, doctors heard about Ananth’s condition and decided to take up his case in a bid to improve his quality of life.  With the backing of the HCG Foundation, Ananth was exposed to advanced treatment in the form of mesenchymal stem cells – connective tissue cells that can differentiate into a variety of cell types – in a bid to try to regenerate nerve cells in his spinal cord.

After two stem cell injections and 11 months of focused rehabilitation, Ananth has shown remarkable signs of improvement.

“Today, I can dream new dreams of a future where I am not dependant on anyone and I can see myself living with dignity,” said Ananth, who showed no signs of difficulty lifting his arms, holding a pen or a cup of coffee. “He had been undergoing regular treatment for a year,” said HCG chairman and CEO Dr Ajaikumar, who along with orthopaedician Dr Pramod S Chinder, took a personal interest in Ananth’s case. “He was someone who led an active life as a gymnast and I felt we should take up this challenging case to show how regeneration can happen through stem cell treatment. We are glad our efforts have finally paid off,” he said, without ruling out further improvement.” “Ananth’s case was studied in detail. Stem cells of the patient were cultured and two injections were given to him,” said Dr Chinder, who was quick to add recovery chances were case specific. “Post treatment, the patient progressed significantly, with the movements of hands and there is sensation in his legs. There is increasing evidence in the benefits of stem cell therapies and spinal cord injuries are one of the most researched. In patients, who do not have any other option of recovering from spinal cord injuries, stem cell treatment is the way to go forward,” Dr. Chinder added.




Stem Cells

Stem cells ‘boost kidney transplants’

Published on Monday 21 January 2013

Coverage by BBC News

“Stem cells beat kidney rejection,” says BBC News. The broadcaster says that an injection of stem cells given alongside a kidney transplant could remove the need for a lifetime of treatment to suppress the immune system.

“The news is based on research detailing the outcomes of eight experimental kidney transplants where the organ came from a living donor. In addition to having their kidney removed, the donor also donated blood stem cells, which can develop into any type of blood cell, including immune system cells. After the recipient patient had received chemotherapy and radiotherapy to suppress their own immune system, the donor kidney and stem cells were transplanted. The aim was to help prevent the organ from being rejected by altering the recipient’s immune system to match that of the donor kidney. Five of the eight patients were able to have their immunosuppressant drugs reduced within one year. Furthermore, there was no evidence that the donor’s transplanted immune cells had started to attack the recipient’s healthy tissue, a possible complication of this type of treatment.”

“Although this is only early-stage research, the results of this small case series are promising and could have implications for the future of organ transplants, particularly in those cases where the donor and recipient are not matched to each other.”

Where did the story come from?

“The study was carried out by researchers from Comprehensive Transplant Center, Northwestern Memorial Hospital, Chicago and other institutions in the US. Funding was provided by the US National Institute of Health; the Department of the Army, Office of Army Research; the National Foundation to Support Cell Transplant Research; the WM Keck Foundation; and the American Society of Transplant Surgeons Collaborative Scientist Award. The study was published in the peer-reviewed journal Science Translational Medicine.”

What kind of research was this?

“This was a case series reporting on the results of eight patients receiving kidney transplants alongside haematopoietic stem cells (HSCs – cells that can develop into any type of blood cell). These were taken from “mismatched” donors (either related or unrelated to the recipient). If they are “mismatched”, the donor and recipient do not share the same human leukocyte antigens (HLAs), which are proteins located on the surface of immune cells and other cells in the body. The immune system recognizes “foreign” HLAs and will attack cells that carry them, potentially leading to rejection. If donor cells carry the same HLAs there is less chance that the host’s immune cells would recognize the transplant tissue as foreign. This is why the ideal situation is to find a suitable HLA-matched donor for individuals awaiting a transplant, although this is often not possible.”

“This research investigated a theory known as “chimerism” (named after a mythical creature made up of parts of different animals), where the transplant recipient has both their own immune cells and those that come from the donor. The hope is that this will prevent the body from rejecting the transplant. However, there is a chance that this could increase the risk of what is known as graft versus host disease (GVHD), which is where the donor’s immune cells instead attack the healthy tissue of the host. HSC transplant also carries a risk of what is known as “engraftment syndrome”, which is characterized by a fever, skin rash and other symptoms.”

What did the research involve?

“This case series reported the outcomes of eight adults (age range 29-56 years) who were receiving a kidney transplant from a living, unmatched donor. A special technique was used to retrieve relevant cells from the donor’s blood, including both HSCs and “graft facilitating cells” (FCs – which are a type of immune cell derived from HSCs).  Prior to transplant of the donor kidney and HSCs/FCs, the recipients were first treated with chemotherapy and radiotherapy to suppress their own immune system and reduce the chance of rejection. After the transplant they received continued treatment with two drugs to suppress their immune system and reduce the chance that their bodies would reject the transplant. They were discharged from hospital two days after the transplant and managed as outpatients.  The researchers monitored the patients to look at how the procedure was tolerated and whether GVHD or engraftment syndrome occurred.”

What were the basic results?

“By one month after transplant the level of chimerism in the recipients’ blood (where they demonstrated cell lines coming from both their own stem cells and the donor’s stem cells) was reported to vary between 6 and 100%.  One patient developed a viral blood infection and blood clot in one of their kidney arteries two months after transplant. Two patients demonstrated only slight chimerism and were maintained on low-dose immunosuppressive treatment. However, five patients demonstrated “durable chimerism” and were able to be weaned from immunosuppressive treatment by one year. None of the recipients developed GVHD or engraftment syndrome.”

How did the researchers interpret the results?

“The researchers conclude that transplant of HSCs is a “safe, practical, and reproducible means of inducing durable chimerism”. It also appeared to be tolerated with no signs of GVHD or engraftment syndrome.  If confirmed in larger studies, the researchers say that this approach to transplantation could free some patients from the need for immunosuppressive treatment within one year of transplantation.”


“This research reported on the cases of eight patients who were receiving a kidney from an unmatched living donor. Alongside the kidney transplant, recipients were also given a transplant of the donor’s haematopoietic stem cells, which have the ability to transform into a range of blood cell types. The aim was that slightly altering the recipient’s immune system to produce cells that “matched” those of the donor kidney would help prevent the organ from being rejected. Five of the eight patients were able to have their immunosuppressant drugs reduced within one year. Furthermore, no patients developed a serious condition called graft versus host disease (where the donor’s transplanted immune cells start to attack the recipient’s healthy tissue), and no patients developed another complication of HSC transplant, known as engraftment syndrome, which includes fever, skin rash and other symptoms.”

“Importantly, this is only early-stage research, reporting the results of treatment in only eight people. Further follow-up in these patients will be needed, in addition to study in much wider groups of patients. However, the results are promising and could have implications for the future of kidney transplant and the transplant of other organs, particularly in people for whom it has not been possible to find a suitable matched donor.”


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