A research team at the University of Malta has made a breakthrough in the world of regenerative medicine after developing a safer, ethical and more affordable form of stem cells.
Instead of using embryonic cells, the research group has produced induced pluripotent stem cells from peripheral blood, cord blood and urine cells of the patient – proving to be much more highly effective and bypassing any ethical reservations one might have about the treatment.
“What we’re doing is different. We’re working with peripheral blood and aren’t genetically modifying anything,” said lead academic Pierre Schembri Wismayer.
“It replaces pretty much the use of embryonic stem cells,” he said.
Present stem cells methods have an efficiency of 1% or less, due to the fact that multiple factors need to enter the same cell, while the induced plural stem cells have an efficiency of 80% – that is how efficient they are at switching from an adult cell to a pluripotent cell.
There’s also the risk of genetic modification with modern methods, which may have safety ramifications.
“Theoretically we are making faster, more affordable and more ethical stem cells.”
In doing so, the research paves the way for the potential for medical professionals to use a patient’s biopsy to develop their own induced pluripotent stem cells which can be developed further to treat medical ailments, such as Parkinson’s Disease, heart failure, liver failure and infertility, amongst others.
“When you make it from your own blood, it won’t be rejected. We are making it easier for scientists all over the world by using our method.”
The research team is currently in the process of improving their protocol so that it is clinical-grade but their development has already been considered a breakthrough and their work has been listed as a finalist in the Life Science category of the Falling Walls World Science Summit 2020.
“This is completely novel. We’re one of 30 finalists and coming from Malta, it’s pretty nice to hear,” he said.
They’ve also forged an evaluation license with a Canadian biotechnology company, STEMCELL Technology.
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