Encapsulated Stem Cells Could Accelerate Wound Healing

Equine stem cells confined inside tiny capsules secrete substances that help heal simulated wounds in cell cultures.

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Encapsulated Stem Cells Could Accelerate Wound Healing
Photo Credit: Courtesy Rebecca Harman
A team of Cornell University scientists has shown that equine stem cells confined inside tiny capsules secrete substances that help heal simulated wounds in cell cultures, opening up new ways of delivering these substances to the locations in the body where they can hasten healing. The capsules need to be tested to see if they help healing in live horses, but they could eventually lead to “living bandage” technologies, wound dressings embedded with capsules of stem cells to help the underlying wound regenerate.

“The encapsulation seems to increase the stem cells’ regenerative potential,” said Gerlinde Van de Walle, DVM, PhD, an assistant professor of viral pathogenesis at the Cornell College of Veterinary Medicine’s Baker Institute for Animal Health, in Ithaca, New York, adding that the reasons why are not yet known. “It’s possible that putting them in capsules changes the interactions between stem cells or changes the microenvironment.”

To her knowledge, Van de Walle said, this is the first time encapsulated stem cells have been used for treating wounds. Her team used horse stem cells and cell cultures because of the particular problem posed by wound healing in veterinary medicine.

Adult stem cells help wounds heal, even when trapped in capsules

Mesenchymal stem cells are adult stem cells that can be isolated from any of a number of different parts of the body, and it’s long been known that they secrete substances that aid in tissue healing. Problems arise when trying to use these stem cells in real patients, Van de Walle said, because they often won’t stay put in the healing area and can occasionally form tumors or develop into unwanted cell types

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