Corporate Banner
Satellite Banner
Stem Cells, Cellular Therapy & Biobanking
Scientific Community
Become a Member | Sign in
Home>News>This Article

Microscopic Packets of Stem Cell Factors could be Key to Preventing Lung Disease in Babies

Published: Monday, November 05, 2012
Last Updated: Monday, November 05, 2012
Bookmark and Share
Research suggests that exosomes alone could protect infants' lungs from dangerous inflammation.

Researchers at Boston Children's Hospital have found that microscopic particles containing proteins and nucleic acids called exosomes could potentially protect the fragile lungs of premature babies from serious lung diseases and chronic lung injury caused by inflammation.

The findings explain earlier research suggesting that while transplanting a kind of stem cell called mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) could help reduce lung injury and prevent inflammation in a mouse model, the fluid in which the cells were grown was more effective than the cells themselves.

The research team—led by Stella Kourembanas, MD, and S. Alex Mitsialis, PhD, and spearheaded by led by Changjin Lee, PhD, all of the Division of Newborn Medicine at Boston Children's—published their findings online on October 31 in the journal Circulation.

Premature babies often struggle to get enough oxygen into their underdeveloped lungs, resulting in hypoxia and the need for ventilator assistance to breathe. Their lungs are particularly susceptible to inflammation, which can lead to poor lung growth and chronic lung disease. Inflammation is also often associated with pulmonary hypertension (PH)—dangerously high blood pressure in the pulmonary artery (the vessel that carries blood from the heart to the lungs), which can have both short- and long-term consequences.

"PH is a complex disease fueled by diverse, intertwined cellular and molecular pathways," according to Kourembanas, who chairs Boston Children's Newborn Medicine division. "We have treatments that improve symptoms but no cure, largely because of this complexity. We need to be able to target more than one pathway at a time."

In 2009, Kourembanas, Mitsialis and others showed that injection of MSCs could prevent PH and chronic lung injury in a newborn mouse model of the disease. The results were puzzling, though, because the team found that few of the injected stem cells actually engrafted within the lungs. They also found that they could achieve better results by injecting just conditioned media—the fluid the cells had been grown in—than by injecting the cells themselves.

"We knew, then, that the significant anti-inflammatory and protective effects we saw had to be caused by something released by the MSCs," Kourembanas explained. "The question was, what?"

To answer that question, the research team grew mouse MSCs in the laboratory and searched the conditioned media for any secreted factors. They came upon exosomes, which many cell types, including MSCs, produce and release as a kind of communication vehicle.

The team found that injecting just purified exosomes from MSCs reduced lung inflammation and prevented the occurrence of PH in their animal model of PH. In contrast, neither MSC-conditioned media depleted of exosomes nor exosomes purified from other cell types had any effect on inflammation or PH in the model, indicating that something unique to the MSC-produced exosomes is required for their protective effect.

"We are actively working to figure out what exactly within the MSC-produced exosomes causes these anti-inflammatory and protective effects," Kourembanas said. "But we know that these exosomes contain microRNAs as well as other nucleic acids. They also induce expression of specific microRNAs in the recipient lung.”

MicroRNAs are small pieces of RNA that regulate gene activity in very specific ways. Thousands of microRNAs have been identified in species up and down the evolutionary tree since their initial discovery in worms nearly 20 years ago, suggesting they play a fundamental role in the cell's regulatory machinery.

"What we may be seeing is the effect of these microRNAs on the expression of multiple genes and the activity of multiple pathways within the lungs and the immune system all at once," she continued.

Looking to the future, Kourembanas thinks exosome research could open a new venue in the development of stem cell-based therapies. She also hopes that, with further study, MSC-produced exosomes could one day be developed into a direct therapy for premature infants at risk of or suffering from chronic lung disease and PH, or even for other diseases with an inflammatory component.

"Exosomes can be isolated from MSCs from several sources, including the umbilical cord" she says. "And unlike donor cells, exosomes are not immunogenic. As such, they could potentially be collected, banked and given like a drug, without the risks of rejection or tumor development that can theoretically come with donor cell or stem cell transplantation."

Further Information
Access to this exclusive content is for Technology Networks Premium members only.

Join Technology Networks Premium for free access to:

  • Exclusive articles
  • Presentations from international conferences
  • Over 2,800+ scientific posters on ePosters
  • More than 4,000+ scientific videos on LabTube
  • 35 community eNewsletters

Sign In

Forgotten your details? Click Here
If you are not a member you can join here

*Please note: By logging into you agree to accept the use of cookies. To find out more about the cookies we use and how to delete them, see our privacy policy.

Scientific News
CRI Identifies Emergency Blood-formation Response
Researchers report that when tissue damage occurs, an emergency blood-formation system activates.
New Way to Force Stem Cells to Become Bone Cells
Potential therapies based on this discovery could help people heal bone injuries or set hardware, such as replacement knees and hips.
Dead Bacteria to Kill Colorectal Cancer
Scientists from Nanyang Technological University (NTU Singapore) have successfully used dead bacteria to kill colorectal cancer cells.
Promise of Newborn Stem Cells to Revolutionize Clinical Practice
In this article Shweta Sharma, PhD, discusses the potential of an Umbilical Cord Blood bank as an untapped source of samples for research and clinical trials.
The Life Story of Stem Cells
A model analyses the development of stem cell numbers in the human body.
Novel Stem Cell Line Avoids Risk of Introducing Transplanted Tumors
Progenitor cells might eventually be used to repair or rebuild damaged or destroyed organs.
Advancing Genome Editing of Blood Stem Cells
Genome editing techniques for blood stem cells just got better, thanks to a team of researchers at USC and Sangamo BioSciences.
Molecule Proves Key to Brain Repair After Stroke
Scientists found that a molecule known as growth and differentiation factor 10 (GDF10) plays a key role in repair mechanisms following stroke.
Towards Patient-Specific Drug Screening
A new breakthrough by the 3D stem cell printing team at Heriot-Watt could pave the way to individually tailored drug testing regimes, both reducing the need for animal testing and ensuring that patients receive drugs which are most effective for their individual needs.
Gene-Edited Immune Cells Treat ‘Incurable’ Leukaemia
A new treatment that uses ‘molecular scissors’ to edit genes and create designer immune cells programmed to hunt out and kill drug resistant leukaemia has been used at Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH).
Skyscraper Banner

Skyscraper Banner
Go to LabTube
Go to eposters
Access to the latest scientific news
Exclusive articles
Upload and share your posters on ePosters
Latest presentations and webinars
View a library of 1,800+ scientific and medical posters
2,800+ scientific and medical posters
A library of 2,500+ scientific videos on LabTube
4,000+ scientific videos