NOV 04, 2016 11:53 AM PDT

Stem Cells to the Rescue! Treating Scleroderma

WRITTEN BY: Kara Marker
Scientists are not quite sure why or how individuals develop scleroderma, and there is no current cure for the autoimmune disease. Stem cells may be the answer, at least for a better treatment option. From the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York, researchers found a way to enhance stem cells to treat scleroderma.
Although characterized by fibrosis of the skin, scleroderma can also affect the blood vessels, lungs, and other internal organs, and the disease is definitely not contagious, infectious, or cancerous. The Scleroderma Foundation estimates that over 300,000 Americans have the disease. There is no existing cure for scleroderma, and treatment options are limited. However, doctors do the best they can to treat individual symptoms on a case-by-case diagnosis.

Enter the new study. Looking at why fibrosis occurs in cases of scleroderma, lead study author Theresa T. Lu, MD, PhD, and her team found a dwindling population of stem cells called adipose-derived stromal cells (ADSCs) under the layer of the skin containing fat. With the ADSC deficiency being a potential cause of skin fibrosis in individuals with scleroderma, Lu and her team investigated further.

For the ADSCs that do survive beneath the fat layer of skin, they have dendritic cells to thank. These are antigen-presenting cells of the immune system that release a compound called lymphotoxin B to promote ADSC survival.

In Lu’s study, researchers administered antibodies stimulating lymphotoxin B receptor along with ADSCs, and this treatment led to the successful replenishment of the ADSC population, increased ADSC survival, and the potential to reverse scleroderma fibrosis.

“The possibility of stimulating the lymphotoxin B pathway to increase the survival of these stem cells is very exciting," Lu said. "By uncovering these mechanisms and targeting them with treatments, perhaps one day we can better treat the disease."

The very same strategy could be also used to treat other conditions: autoimmune diseases like lupus and rheumatoid arthritis as well as bone and cartilage repair. Lu and her team plan on continuing their work with ADSCs in the future, looking for all possible treatment applications. The current study was recently published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation.
 


Sources: Hospital for Special Surgery, Scleroderma Foundation
About the Author
  • I am a scientific journalist and enthusiast, especially in the realm of biomedicine. I am passionate about conveying the truth in scientific phenomena and subsequently improving health and public awareness. Sometimes scientific research needs a translator to effectively communicate the scientific jargon present in significant findings. I plan to be that translating communicator, and I hope to decrease the spread of misrepresented scientific phenomena! Check out my science blog: ScienceKara.com.
You May Also Like
FEB 16, 2021
Immunology
Hugs From Immune Cells Heal Muscle
FEB 16, 2021
Hugs From Immune Cells Heal Muscle
Australian researchers have discovered a regenerative factor produced by immune cells that drives the repair and regener ...
FEB 25, 2021
Immunology
Two Immune Guardians of the Brain Discovered
FEB 25, 2021
Two Immune Guardians of the Brain Discovered
Most organ systems are protected by a cavalry of immune cells present in the circulation—but not the brain. Consid ...
MAR 18, 2021
Immunology
COVID Cytokine Storm Chasers Look Inside the Lungs
MAR 18, 2021
COVID Cytokine Storm Chasers Look Inside the Lungs
Immunologists have revealed one of the underlying mechanisms behind COVID’s life-threatening cytokine storms. By s ...
MAY 05, 2021
Immunology
Novel 3D Bio-printed Leukemia Model Shows Potential for Treatment Testing Platform
MAY 05, 2021
Novel 3D Bio-printed Leukemia Model Shows Potential for Treatment Testing Platform
Three-dimensional (3D) printing has become a common technique over the past two decades. Now, the technique has been ado ...
JUN 08, 2021
Immunology
Is the Pfizer-BioNtech Vaccine Variant-Resistant?
JUN 08, 2021
Is the Pfizer-BioNtech Vaccine Variant-Resistant?
Genetic variants of SARS-CoV-2 have emerged over the course of the pandemic, threatening public health efforts to limit ...
JUN 16, 2021
Immunology
Researchers Identify a Novel COVID Therapeutic Target and Mortality Predictor
JUN 16, 2021
Researchers Identify a Novel COVID Therapeutic Target and Mortality Predictor
Researchers at King’s College London have discovered a new antiviral target to combat COVID-19: the galectin-3-bin ...
Loading Comments...