BOENNIGHEIM (hö) Stem cells are widely considered a major new hope in
medicine because they are capable of differentiating into a broad variety of
human cell types. This characteristic makes them particularly interesting for
recreating irreversibly damaged tissues, following a heart attack for example,
or in cases of injury to the spinal cord.
Human stem cells colonising a textile implant. Bioresorbable textile fibres that have been colonised with cells as
seen through a transmitted light microscope (left). In a fluorescent microscope (right) the nuclei of the stem cells
appear in blue, while the cytoskeleton has been marked in red.
Researchers at the Institute
for Hygiene and Biotechnology (IHB) at the Hohenstein Institute have successfully
devised a special, optimised textile coating that allows adult human stem cells
to colonise the surface fibres of textile implants. A molecular layer of natural
biomaterials from the human extra-cellular matrix has been developed for this
purpose. Cell colonies derived from the body cells of the patient allow the
tiny "all-rounders" to be placed directly at the site of damaged tissue. New
cardiac muscle cells, for example, can be generated by introducing certain factors.
These can then be used to replace parts of the heart that have been destroyed
during a heart attack.
The head of the IHB, Dr. Dirk Hoefer says, "This is an initial success
in the direction of
textile stem cell therapy. But we still need to develop better understanding
of how stem
cells colonise - meaning interact with - fibres. Therefore, we will
continue working on
optimising colonisation of textile implants in order to provide as many cells
as possible per
unit of fibre surface and with the required factors in a targeted way. "
Adult stem cells are found in many types of human tissues and, unlike embryonic
cells, do not have to be harvested from human embryos, a controversial approach
frequently rejected on ethical grounds. The mesenchymal stem cells used by the
are multipotent, meaning that they can, for example, develop into heart muscle,
cartilaginous tissue. Colonising stem cells on textiles opens up far-reaching
possibilities for regenerative medicine. Textile implants are frequently used
requiring the stabilisation of injured tissue. There are, for example, heart
patches made of
biomaterial that can be applied to damaged cardiac tissues. After a certain
implanted biodegradable foreign objects are dissolved by the patient's body.
The aim of the researchers at Hohenstein is to colonise diverse textiles with
cells in the laboratory and then to convert them directly into the cell type
of the target
tissue. The scientists are also currently working on a technique for colour-marking
cells in order to make it possible to identify them even after differentiation
into heart, cartilage or bone tissue, as well as ease following the post-implantation