Students Use Stem Cells to Treat Post-Surgical Injuries
A new study could help address surgery-related muscle herniation.
The last decade has seen doctors and researchers exploring a novel way to improve wound care: stem cell therapy. According to the National Institutes of Health, this technique makes use of unspecialized cells to bolster the wound healing process, streamlining a patient’s experience while reducing the risk of infection and other complications. A number of studies have found impressive results with stem cell therapy. For instance, in 2013, the Regenerative Medicine Institute unveiled its own research, detailing how stem cells had greatly reduced cases of diabetic foot ulcers. Thanks to stem cells, millions of patients worldwide could benefit from this innovative approach.
A need for regulation
However, wound-centric stem cell therapy is still very much in its infancy, and studies are still being conducted into its true applications. According to a 2015 review in BioMed Research International, more work needs to be done to ensure that clinical use maintains an equal pace with the evidence available. There needs to be more research into how to use this therapy, who will benefit from it and just how effective we expect stem cells to be. In fact, this lack of control is actually harming some people. As EuroStemCell pointed out, as people look at stem cell therapy as a saving grace, many are turning to unregulated treatment centers across Europe, and this is opening them up to a slew of unsafe practices.
A deeper look
The priority, then, is more research into stem cell therapy, and that’s just what students at Ohio’s Youngstown State University are doing. As YSU’s newspaper The Jambar reported, several students and professors have teamed with the St. Elizabeth Health Center to determine the effects of stem cells on post-surgical muscle repair. This multi-disciplinary team, which involves people from the engineering, biology and computer science departments, are implanting bone marrow in rats and rabbits following surgery.
From there, researchers examine the collagen within the wound site, which is indicative of healing progress, and the tensile strength of scar tissue, which further reveals how effectively the wound is healing. Ultimately, the research collective is trying to prevent surgery-related recurrent herniation. Following most surgeries, muscles will contract, which pulls at the wound site, and this can cause painful injuries. To address these issues, the team places the cells inside collagen tape, which is then inserted into the wound. They can then stain the mesh, and this helps to demonstrate just how much the stem cells moved around and their overall rates of success. In the early trials, the scientists found that stem cells are actually stronger than the rat or rabbit’s original tissue.
In the coming months, the team will begin work on human models, which raises a new set of questions. Humans are less inbred, and, according to the team, that means culling samples from each individual. They’ll also need to use fewer stem cells – rats and rabbits have received a million per dose – as it’s important to know the exact levels humans require to benefit from the therapy. Studies like these are not only promising, but help to regulate an industry with wide-scale medical ramifications.
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