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medresearch:

How ‘Smart’ Stem Cells Could Lead to Arthritis Vaccine

Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis (WUSTL) have modified mouse stem cells to combat the kind of inflammation that arthritis and other conditions cause. The stem cells may one day be used in a vaccine that would fight arthritis and other chronic inflammation conditions in humans, a new paper suggests.

The research is available in the journal Stem Cell Reports

Such stem cells, known as SMART cells (Stem cells Modified for Autonomous Regenerative Therapy), develop into cartilage cells that produce a biologic anti-inflammatory drug that, ideally, will replace arthritic cartilage and simultaneously protect joints and other tissues from damage that occurs with chronic inflammation.

Researchers initially worked with skin cells from the tails of mice and converted those cells into stem cells. Then, using the gene-editing tool CRISPR in cells grown in culture, they removed a key gene in the inflammatory process and replaced it with a gene that releases a biologic drug that combats inflammation.

“We want to use our gene-editing technology as a way to deliver targeted therapy in response to localized inflammation in a joint, as opposed to current drug therapies that can interfere with the inflammatory response through the entire body,” says Farshid Guilak, the paper’s senior author, a professor of orthopedic surgery at Washington University School of Medicine, and a professor of developmental biology and of biomedical engineering and codirector of Washington University’s Center of Regenerative Medicine.

“If this strategy proves to be successful, the engineered cells only would block inflammation when inflammatory signals are released, such as during an arthritic flare in that joint.”

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Funding: The National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases and the National Institute on Aging of the National Institutes of Health supported this work. The Nancy Taylor Foundation for Chronic Diseases; the Arthritis Foundation; the National Science Foundation; and the Collaborative Research Center of the AO Foundation in Davos, Switzerland, provided additional funding.

Raise your voice in support of expanding federal funding for life-saving medical research by joining the AAMC’s advocacy community.

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