Scientists heal wounds with encapsulated stem cells

According to a recent study from Cornell University, stitches and bandages may soon be things of the past. A new way of healing wounds using stem cells inserted into tiny capsules has been discovered, and is being likened to a "living bandage" in its potential uses.

The researchers used mesenchymal stem cells and cell cultures from horses due to the similarity in the healing processes of horses and humans. Mesenchymal stem cells are known to secrete tissue-healing substances that could be helpful in wound treatment, but the problem is that if their potential for reproduction and growth isn't limited, they can end up causing tumors to develop in the injection site. To solve this problem, the researchers encapsulated them in hydrogel microcapsules that allowed these substances to be secreted without the stem cells multiplying or migrating.

The study found that these capsules actually magnified the beneficial effects of stem cells on tissue, healing wounds in cell cultures more effectively than non-encapsulated cells. 

Author Gerlinde Van de Walle of the Baker Institute for Animal Health in the Cornell College of Veterinary Medicine said in a statement, "The encapsulation seems to increase the stem cells' regenerative potential," but that the mechanisms behind this are unknown and "[i]t's possible that putting them in capsules changes the interactions between stem cells or changes the microenvironment."

Although stem cell therapies are already in use by veterinarians for wound healing in horses, the authors say it will still be some time before a "living bandage" for humans will come to the market, as much more testing in different cell cultures is needed.

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