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
SEP 16, 2019
Cell & Molecular Biology
SEP 16, 2019
Stem Cell Derived Natural Killer T Cells as Novel and Long-term Cancer Treatment
Hematopoietic stem cells are used to create a population of Natural Killer T-cells that could sustain and renew within the immune system, and attack cancer cells....
SEP 15, 2019
Immunology
SEP 15, 2019
New Observations of a Cancer Transcriptase
New research shows a transcriptase that helps time cell death varies in expression, and is unusually localized, in cancer cells.  The transcriptase, T...
NOV 01, 2019
Immunology
NOV 01, 2019
Immunity to HPV Can Prevent Skin Cancer
Scientists discovered a surprise benefit of low-risk human papillomaviruses (HPV), a typical resident of human skin. New research shows that these harmless...
NOV 12, 2019
Immunology
NOV 12, 2019
Allergy Shots May Work for Kids with Pollen Food Allergy Syndrome
It’s not common for young children to develop pollen food allergy syndrome (PFAS), but for those that do, there’s not too much parents can do o...
NOV 27, 2019
Genetics & Genomics
NOV 27, 2019
Humans Are Continuing to Evolve, Along With Immune-Related Diseases
Humans have evolved in some ways to be less susceptible to pathogens, but those benefits can also carry risks of other diseases....
NOV 29, 2019
Immunology
NOV 29, 2019
Protecting Killer Immune Cells from Themselves
Destroying human cells compromised by viruses and cancer is the name of the game for so-called “killer” cells of the immune system. They employ...
Loading Comments...