A team of UK scientists, led by Dr. Paul Genever at the Arthritis Research UK Tissue Engineering Centre at York University, has managed to adopt the regenerative abilities of reptiles to regenerate lost organs and tissues.
The technique relies on rejuvenating the cells of elderly osteoarthritis patients to mend the cartilage that the condition wears away. Since there is no current means of halting the deterioration’s progression, patients normally require joint replacement surgeries.
The regenerative abilities of newts comes from their ability to undergo a process called “dedifferentiation.” As the name suggests, this process has some of their cells collect and revert to a stem cell–like state to generate the specific cells needed to form new tissue.
Humans do not naturally exhibit dedifferentiation, and the number of stem cells in the body of someone experiencing osteoarthritis is normally limited due to their age. What the U.K. team has done is devise a means to artificially induce dedifferentiation in clusters of human cells.
The clusters are grown inside tiny cavities, forcibly aggregating them and bringing them close together. In such a state, the cells are forced to self-cannibalize, reducing their constituents and size. A similar result has been achieved using certain drug combinations, but the use of the cavity has proven more effective.
The next stage of research involves obtaining a greater understanding of the dedifferentiation process so that the cells can be reverted further back into more pliable states. There is also work to be done on developing the means to encourage tissue repair in the joints into which the cells are placed.
Osteoarthritis is the most common form of joint disease in the world. It occurs when the cartilage at the ends of bones is worn away. This results in pain, stiffness, and inflammation that can severely restrict quality of life.
Sources for Today’s Article:
“Newts Inspire Effective Stem Cell Treatment for Osteoarthritis,” Scicasts web site; https://scicasts.com/stem-cells/2070-regenerative-medicine/9888-newts-inspire-effective-stem-cell-treatment-for-osteoarthritis/, last accessed August 20, 2015.
Pennock, R., et al., “Human cell dedifferentiation in mesenchymal condensates through controlled autophagy,” Scientific Reports; http://www.nature.com/articles/srep13113, last accessed August 20, 2015.