Stem cell breakthrough may offer new therapies for various incurable diseases

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Sydney, March 6 (ANI): A group of scientists in Sydney have achieved a breakthrough in using adult stem cells to re-grow damaged muscle tissue in mice, and thereby moved a step closer to realising a potential new therapy for incurable diseases like muscular dystrophy.

Peter Gunning, the head of the Oncology Research Unit at the University of NSW, has revealed that the study involved mice engineered to have an injured skeletal muscle.

He, however, said that the concept could also be applied to human diseases like lung disorders, chronic liver disease, and types I and II diabetes.

The study solved one of the biggest hurdles involving stem cell therapy in solid organs-getting the donor cells to survive for more than an hour after being inserted into the damaged host tissue.

Gunning said that, to date, the new healthy cells had no survival advantage over the dominant existing damaged tissue, and that injected donor cells were almost immediately wiped out by the immune system.

"In muscle, most stem cells die in the first hour or are present in such low numbers that they are not much help," the Sydney Morning Herald quoted Professor Gunning as saying.

With a view to enhancing the stem cells' survival chances, the researchers inserted an artificial, harmless virus - called a vector - into the cells, making them resistant to chemotherapy.

According to them, the diseased tissue is then killed off by chemotherapy, leaving room for the healthy cells to engraft and propagate.

"It's the first strategy that gives the good guys the edge in the battle to cure sick tissues," Professor Gunning said.

The experimental technique is still at the pre-clinical stage.

Professor Gunning hopes that human clinical trials with this technique may begin within three to five years. (ANI)

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