Did you know a newborn’s umbilical cord is home to potentially life-saving stem cells like lymphoma and leukemia? This is one of the main reasons why parents today choose to store blood in their newborn’s umbilical cord. Notably, if a pregnant woman is affected by gestational diabetes, the stem cells of the umbilical cord will be damaged, rendering the umbilical cord useless. A study by bioengineers at the University of Notre Dame, however, speaks of a new strategy that could restore damaged stem cells and allow them to grow back into new tissues. Under the new strategy, each damaged stem cell is given a backpack of nanoparticles.
Follow researchEach spherical nanoparticle, 150 nanometers in diameter, has the ability to store drugs and slowly transfer them into stem cells.
Donny Hanjaya-Putra, assistant professor of aerospace and mechanical engineering, bioengineering graduate program at Notre Dame, speak, “Each stem cell is like a soldier. It is smart and efficient; it knows where to go and what to do. But the ‘soldiers’ we were working with were wounded and weak. By giving them this nanoparticle “backpack”, we are giving them what they need to be productive again. “
The researchers then conducted an experiment on the damaged cells by removing the “backpack”. After examination, it was concluded that the aforementioned cells had formed imperfect tissues. Meanwhile, the results with the “backpack” showed the formation of new blood vessels
According to Hanjaya-Putra, their study has “the clearest path of any method developed to date.” He goes on to add, “The methods of injecting drugs directly into the bloodstream are fraught with risks and unwanted side effects.”
Hanjaya-Putra and his team suggest that this approach could be useful in cases of pregnancy complications, such as preeclampsia. The researcher added, “Instead of removing stem cells, in the future we hope that clinicians will be able to rejuvenate them and use them to regenerate the body.” Citing one example, Hanjaya-Putra adds, “For example, a baby born prematurely due to preeclampsia may end up in the NICU with an imperfectly formed lung. We hope our technology can improve this child’s developmental outcomes. “