A new study published in the journal Stem Cell Reports describes how US researchers are using gene-edited stem cells to fight arthritis. The researchers successfully re-wired the stem cells of mice to fight the inflammation caused by arthritis.
A technology called Stem cells Modified for Autonomous Regenerative Therapy (SMART) was used by the researchers to alter the stem cells. Once transplanted, the altered stem cells developed into cartilage cells and release a biologic anti-inflammatory drug. The arthritic cartilage tissue in the body is replaced and the anti-inflammatory action protects the body’s tissue from damage.
The edited stem cells were developed at research centres in St. Louis. Researchers from Duke University, and Cytex Therapeutics Inc. were also closely involved with this project.
The researchers began by taking skin cells from the tails of the mice and converted them into induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs). These stem cells were modified in a gene-editing tool called CRISPR, and then grown in a culture. One of the genes removed from the cells plays a key role in inflammatory processes in the bodies of the mice. It was replaced with a gene that produces a biologic drug that acts as an anti-inflammatory agent.
Dr Farshid Guilak explains the purpose of the research, saying: "Our goal is to package the rewired stem cells as a vaccine for arthritis, which would deliver an anti-inflammatory drug to an arthritic joint but only when it is needed. To do this, we needed to create a 'smart' cell.”
Currently, a number of drugs are used to treat arthritis. Unfortunately, they are not targeted at the arthritic joints specifically and impact the body’s entire immune system. This leads to some serious side effects including frequent infections. These new findings could lead to a stem cell treatment for arthritis within the next decade!