Within a newborn’s umbilical cord lie potentially life-saving stem cells that can be used to fight diseases like lymphoma and leukemia. That is why many new parents elect to store (“bank”) their infant’s stem cell-rich umbilical cord blood. But in the 6–15% of pregnancies affected by gestational diabetes, parents lack this option because the condition damages the stem cells and renders them useless.
At the heart of this new approach are specially engineered nanoparticles. At just 150 nanometers in diameter—about a quarter of the size of a red blood cell—each spherical nanoparticle is able to store medicine and deliver it just to the stem cells themselves by attaching directly onto the stem cells’ surface. Due to their special formulation or “tuning,” the particles release the medicine slowly, making it highly effective even at very low doses.
Donny Hanjaya-Putra, an assistant professor of aerospace and mechanical engineering in the bioengineering graduate program at Notre Dame who directs the lab where the study was conducted, described the process using an analogy. “Each stem cell is like a soldier. It is smart and effective; it knows where to go and what to do. But the ‘soldiers’ we are working with are injured and weak. By providing them with this nanoparticle ‘backpack,’ we are giving them what they need to work effectively again.”
The main test for the new “backpack”-equipped stem cells was whether or not they could form new tissues. Hanjaya-Putra and his team tested damaged cells without “backpacks” and observed that they moved slowly and formed imperfect tissues. But when Hanjaya-Putra and his team applied “backpacks,” previously damaged stem cells began forming new blood vessels, both when inserted in synthetic polymers and when implanted under the skin of lab mice, two environments meant to simulate the conditions of the human body.
Although it may be years before this new technique reaches actual health care settings, Hanjaya-Putra explained that it has the clearest path of any method developed so far. “Methods that involve injecting the medicine directly into the bloodstream come with many unwanted risks and side effects,” Hanjaya-Putra said. In addition, new methods like gene editing face a long journey to Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval. But Hanjaya-Putra’s technique used only methods and materials already approved for clinical settings by the FDA.
Hanjaya-Putra attributed the study’s success to a highly interdisciplinary group of researchers. “This was a collaboration between chemical engineering, mechanical engineering, biology and medicine—and I always find that the best science happens at the intersection of several different fields.”
The study’s lead author was former Notre Dame postdoctoral student Loan Bui, now a faculty member at the University of Dayton in Ohio; stem cell biologist Laura S. Haneline and former postdoctoral fellow Shanique Edwards from the Indiana University School of Medicine; Notre Dame Bioengineering doctoral students Eva Hall and Laura Alderfer; Notre Dame undergraduates Pietro Sainaghi, Kellen Round and 2021 valedictorian Madeline Owen; Prakash Nallathamby, research assistant professor, aerospace and mechanical engineering; and Siyuan Zhang from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center.
The researchers hope their approach will be used to restore cells damaged by other types of pregnancy complications, such as preeclampsia. “Instead of discarding the stem cells,” Hanjaya-Putra said, “in the future we hope clinicians will be able to rejuvenate them and use them to regenerate the body. For example, a baby born prematurely due to preeclampsia may have to stay in the NICU with an imperfectly formed lung. We hope our technology can improve this child’s developmental outcomes.”
A South African laboratory study using Covid-19 samples from an immunosupressed individual over six months showed that the virus evolved to become more pathogenic, indicating that a new variant could cause worse illness than [...]
For the past several months, Omicron subvariants BA.4 and BA.5 have dominated COVID-19 cases in the U.S. But now, there’s a class of new COVID subvariants on the rise and one in particular is getting plenty of [...]
Nucleic acid therapies involving DNA or RNA have significant potential to treat genetic disorders, infectious diseases, and cancer; however, research suggests that less than 1% of injected nucleic acid doses reach target cells in [...]
The US Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday approved Hemgenix, a new drug to treat hemophilia. Manufacturer CSL Behring set the price at $3.5 million per treatment, making it the most expensive drug [...]
Some wounds just won’t heal. Infections, diseases like diabetes, and suppressed immune systems often stack up to slow healing. Chronic wounds can last months and lead to anxiety and depression. In the worst cases, [...]
Over the years, researchers have tried hard to comprehend topographic signals that promote cell mechanical sensitive responses. The extracellular matrix (ECM) provides a complex cellular microenvironment that controls cellular behavior. Nevertheless, only a few [...]
There is now an imminent threat of measles spreading in various regions globally, as COVID-19 led to a steady decline in vaccination coverage and weakened surveillance of the disease, the World Health Organization (WHO) [...]
In a recent study, it was shown that people with long Covid have had physical changes to their brains several months after experiencing the initial infection. The study included MRIs of patients who continued [...]
Western University in London, Ont., is building a unique research lab to study humanity's greatest viral threats — a secret weapon, if you will, one that it's expected would put Canada and the world in a better position if [...]
Cancer patients are testing a medicine made of antibodies that were designed from scratch on a computer in Israel and whose inventor has “programmed” them to “decide” whether cells surrounding tumors are bad or good. [...]
In an article published in the journal Scientific Reports, researchers presented the potentiostatic deposition used to electrodeposit nickel (Ni) and nickel-graphene (Ni-G) films on copper substrates. Myristic acid (MA) was employed to alter the plane of the [...]
Oregon State University scientists have invented a way to make magnetic nanoparticles that get hotter than any previous nanoparticle, improving their cancer fighting ability. Faculty from the OSU College of Pharmacy spearheaded a collaboration [...]
November 14, 2022 -- Researchers at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center have developed a nanotechnology platform that changes the immune system's perception of solid tumor cells, making them more receptive to immunotherapy. [...]
Nanotechnology platform enables immune conversion of cancer cells, sensitizing them to immunotherapy
A team of researchers at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center has developed a nanotechnology platform that can change the way the immune system sees solid tumor cells, making them more receptive [...]
Researchers learn to engineer growth of crystalline materials consisting of nanometer-size gold clusters
First insights into engineering crystal growth by atomically precise metal nanoclusters have been achieved in a study performed by researchers in Singapore, Saudi Arabia and Finland. The work was published in Nature Chemistry ("Supercrystal engineering of [...]