A hydrogel mesh that protects stem cells used to boost muscle damage healing from immune attack
As a person ages their ability to repair damaged tissues dwindles in part because the number and potency of their stem cells declines. Treating an injured elderly patient with stem cells from a young healthy donor may boost the healing process, but delivering a sufficient number of cells to be effective can be difficult. The injected cells may be killed by the host’s immune system, and those that survive may drift away from the injection site. Now, researchers have developed a protective hydrogel matrix – a watery polymer mesh – that envelopes donor stem cells, keeping them in one place and preventing immune cell attack. Indeed, when such hydrogel-embedded muscle stem cells were applied to damaged mouse muscles (pictured), they led to the successful growth of new fibres (green). If such results translate to humans the approach could provide a new treatment for injuries to aged muscles or those damaged by disease.
Written by Ruth Williams
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