Stem cells have the superpower to transform into any other type of cell, a superpower that some animals use to regrow their limbs; for medicine, they offer the potential to help us repair parts of human body that have been damaged by injury or disease.
Performing such repairs requires the ability to manipulate stem cells on demand, and a new study describes an innovative way to do this: using high-frequency sound waves to transform stem cells into bone cells in just 5 days, with 10 min of stimulating treatment per day.
Further more, researchers hope that this technique – which has several advantages over the processes used today – could be used to re-grow the lost bone to cancer or other types of degenerative disease.
“Sound waves reduce the treatment time typically needed to get stem cells to start transforming into bone cells by several days,” says Amy Gelmi, a vice-chancellor research-fellow at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) in Australia.
“This method does not require special “bone inducing” special drug and is very easy to apply to stem cells.
The approach is based on years of work modifying materials with sound waves above 10 MHz frequencies, which are much higher frequencies than those previously used by researchers in these types of experiments. Here, a microchip was used to transform stem cells put in silicone oil & placed on a culture plate.
Other experimental processes in this area had some success, but they are complicated to establish, expensive to handle & hard to scale up. They also need stem cells extracted from a patient’s bone marrow, which is a painful procedure.
This new approach represents an improvement in all of these areas. Researchers have shown that it works with several types of stem cells, including fat-derived stem cells that aren’t as painful to pull-out from the body.
“We can use the sound waves to apply the correct amount of pressure in the right places to stem cells, to trigger the change process,” explains the Leslie Yeo chemical engineer, from REMIT.
“Our device is inexpensive & easy to use, so it is easily upscaled to treat a large number of cells simultaneously – vital for effective tissue engineering.
Upscaling is the next step in the process. Theoretically, this approach should work outside of a small lab test, but scientists have to make sure. There is also possible to further miniaturized the technology.
The researchers are now making several discoveries when it comes to turning stem cells into different types of cells to combat various health problems.
If this particular process can be improved, there are several ways to use it as a treatment, according to the team. Eventually, it is hoped that bioreactors can be developed to process stem cells in this way.
“Our study revealed that this new approach had an strong potential to use for the treatment of stem cells, Before we coat them on an implant or Inject directly in the body for Tissue Engineering, “says Gelmi.
The research has been published in Small.