ARLINGTON - Researchers at The University of Texas at Arlington have discovered that implantation of medical devices such as catheters leads to the creation of 200 times as many adult stem cells than previous methods of harvesting.
Liping Tang, a UT Arlington bioengineering professor, said the discovery shows that the adult stem cells created are multipotent, meaning that the new cells have all kinds of functions. The discovery/technology has a patent pending.
"In our research, the stem cells recovered could be reinserted into the same person who manufactured them to help fight disease," Tang said. "Those adult stem cells also can be used for tissue engineering and stem cell therapies."
The human body contains more than 200 types of cells, which typically have unique functions, such as carrying oxygen, transmitting nerve signals or making bone. Stem cells, however, don't have specific functions. Researchers and doctors believe that stem cells provide hope for cures for cancer, spinal cord injury, stroke and degenerative diseases by using cell transplants instead of drugs and other therapies. In addition, adult stem cell creation could possibly regenerate organs, Tang said.
The new method could provide a much less controversial way of creating stem cells than science focused on embryonic stem cell creation, which has invited debate in the political and scientific communities. Tang discovered how catheters can stimulate stem cell creation while investigating how to make implantation of such devices safer for patients.
With proper stimulation and manipulation, the cells can be separated into bone cells, neurological cells, fat cells and other, more specialized cells, he added.
Tang said his team has proven that the method to produce adult stem cells will work in laboratory mice.
"We inserted a catheter into a mouse's belly and we've seen the stem cells produced at that site," Tang said.
Recovering adult stem cells in this way, Tang said, also is a much less painful method of harvesting the cells.
Bone marrow is considered the most abundant source of adult stem cells. But less than 500,000 stem cells are usually recovered from 15 milliliters of bone marrow fluid - the maximum amount from one human adult. Tang's new method can yield more than 100 million stem cells from one patient, he said.
Ironically, it was the catheter that brought Tang to the discovery of the stem cell creation. He was investigating how to make catheter and medical device implantation safer for patients.
Tang and his colleagues presented their findings at the 2008 Society for Biomaterials Annual Meeting and Exposition in San Antonio in April 2009.
The University of Texas at Arlington is an Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action employer.