Did you know that a newborn’s umbilical cord harbors vital stem cells like lymphoma and leukemia? This is one of the main reasons why parents today choose to store blood in an infant’s umbilical cord. Notably, if pregnancies are affected by gestational diabetes, the stem cells in the umbilical cord are damaged, rendering the cord useless. However, a study, conducted by bioengineers from the University of Notre Dame, speaks of a new strategy that can restore damaged stem cells and allow them to grow new tissue again. Under the new strategy, each damaged stem cell receives a backpack of nanoparticles.
According to the study, each spherical nanoparticle, which measures 150 nanometers in diameter, has the ability to store the drug and slowly transfer it to stem cells.
Donny Hanjaya-Putra, Assistant Professor of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering, Bioengineering Graduate Program at Notre Dame, said, “Every stem cell is like a soldier. It’s smart and efficient; he knows where to go and what to do. But the “soldiers” we work with are injured and weak. By providing them with this “backpack” of nanoparticles, we are giving them what they need to work effectively again.
Later, the researchers conducted an experiment on the damaged cells by removing the “backpacks”. Upon examination, it was concluded that said cells formed imperfect tissues. While the result with “backpacks” showed the formation of new blood vessels
According to Hanjaya-Putra, their study has the “clearest path of any method developed so far.” He added: “Methods that involve injecting the drug directly into the bloodstream carry many risks and unwanted side effects.
Hanjaya-Putra and her team believe this approach may be helpful with pregnancy complications, such as preeclampsia. The researcher added: “Instead of discarding stem cells, in the future we hope clinicians can rejuvenate them and use them to regenerate the body.” Citing one example, Hanjaya-Putra added: “For example, a baby born prematurely due to preeclampsia may have to stay in the NICU with a malformed lung. We hope our technology can improve the developmental outcomes of this child.