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Date: Feb 01, 2010
Hofstra professor’s research may lead to new treatments of cardiovascular disease, stroke
Promise for Regenerating Blood Vessels from Embryonic Stem Cells
Hofstra University, Hempstead, NY - A team of scientists, including Hofstra bio-engineering professor Sina Rabbany, have devised a new method of turning embryonic stem cells into durable blood-vessel-forming cells, a breakthrough with potential to dramatically improve the treatment of diseases ranging from stroke to cardiovascular disease.
The new technique, outlined in a study that appears in the Jan. 17, 2010 online issue of Nature Biotechnology, increases by 40-fold the number of blood vessel-forming cells - or endothelial cells - that can be generated from stem cells. The ability to generate vast quantities of endothelial cells addresses a significant hurdle in stem-cell research - namely that scientists had previously struggled to create the many millions of blood-vessel-forming cells needed for effective treatment therapies.
Dr. Rabbany said the research "may serve as a giant step toward repairing damaged vessel networks, such as one might find after burns, heart attacks or stroke.
Along with Dr. Rabbany, the research team included scientists from Weill Cornell Medical College and Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Rabbany is spearheading the bio-engineering aspect of the project - growing from the stem cells blood vessel-forming cells that will be long-lasting and functional in patients. To do this, he is designing polymeric scaffolds to differentiate stem cells from endothelial cells in a three-dimensional setting in-vitro.
"Almost every body part requires vascular supply, and endothelial cells are the building blocks of that supply," Rabbany told Science Daily. "So now that we can make these cells, how can we make them grow in a 3-D setting and make conduits that carry blood, and can provide oxygen and nutrients to other cells? Whether you want to grow a pancreas for diabetes, or help treat Parkinson's disease, every cell in the human body is next to an endothelial cell."
The finding represents substantial progress in making endothelial cells from embryonic stem cells, but "the ultimate proof will come from testing in humans," says Dr. Shahin Rafii, senior author of the study, a professor of medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College, and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator. The team hopes to do human testing of the new technique to determine if it can restore blood flow to injured organs in the next five years.
"Our general approach can be applied to additional human tissues and help other stem cell research groups develop and maintain special cell types in the larger effort to understand human development - and to heal many different kinds of human diseases and injuries," said Dr. Daylon James, the study's first author and an assistant research professor in the Department of Reproductive Medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College.
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