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How Researchers Regenerate Bone, Cartilage, and Heart Muscle with Stem Cells

By Paul Lacovara, 9:00 am on

A group of scientists from the Stanford University School of Medicine recently unlocked more of the mystery behind what causes body cells to mature into specific types. They now know what biological and chemical signals play a major role in telling a stem cell to transform into one of 12 types of cells during growth and maturation. The cells of particular interest are the ones that eventually make up bone, cartilage or heart muscle. Milford senior care providers believe the findings of this research will be particularly beneficial for healthcare professionals in the near future.

Solving the Mystery

When first formed, embryonic stem cells have the potential to be any cell in the body. By studying fish, frogs and mice, researchers learned what it takes for stem cells to determine their future. For example, when a human embryo is first formed the early phases of an infant consist of the ectoderm (outside layer), the endoderm (inside layer) and the mesoderm (middle layer). The mesoderm produces cells that eventually become bone, blood, cardiovascular tissue, connective tissue, kidneys, muscle and skin. These cells in particular were the ones that interested Stanford researchers the most. 

The scientists exposed stem cells to signaling molecules known as BMP, Hedgehog, TGF and WNT in order to differentiate them from one another. The group discovered that cell differentiation involves multiple signals that encourage or inhibit transformations. Exposing stem cells to TGF ensured that the cells would develop into mesoderm cells. Adding WNT and blocking BMP resulted in the formation of one type of mesoderm cell while performing the reverse action caused the formation of another mesoderm cell type.

By uncovering the right combination of signals, the scientists created cells that formed bone and heart muscle in mice. The researchers also successfully found the right molecular signal combinations to make 10 other types of mesoderm cells. 

Regenerative Advancement

Prior to having intimate knowledge of cellular development, using genetic material to create specified cells in the field of tissue regeneration required weeks or months. Now, scientists have the ability to create the desired cell types within days. Equipped with this knowledge, scientists are better able to manufacture live tissue for bone or connective tissue injury repair, or can even replace the heart tissue damaged after a heart attack.

If your loved one is recovering from an injury or surgery, contact Home Care Assistance at 203-444-8575 today. In addition to helping seniors recover from surgery and injuries, we also provide comprehensive stroke, dementia, and Alzheimer’s care in Milford. Learn how our services can benefit your loved one when you schedule a free in-home consultation today.

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