Harvard University John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences
Bone marrow transplants utilizing hematopoietic stem cells are currently being used as an effective treatment to combat life threatening cancers and infections.
A transfusion of blood stem cells from a matched donor is injected into the patient to “reset the blood and immune system.” To prevent rejection, patients must go through extensive chemotherapy and radiation, compromising the healthy cells functionality and reducing the immune system’s ability to regenerate. Immune system complications can be seen long after the transplant and patients have an increased susceptibility for infectious diseases.
Stem cell biologists at Harvard have created an “injectable sponge-like gel that enhances the production T-cells after a bone marrow transplant” designed to give the patient’s immune system a boost. The treatment focuses on increasing the production of lymphoid progenitors, cells that migrate to the thymus and eventually generate new T-cells.
The sponge-like gel has built in proteins that encourage local cells to become bone cells and produce T-cell progenitors. The sponge has large pores enabling cells to come and go. The sponge-like cell factory enhances the body’s ability to rapidly regenerate T-cells to combat antigens.
Further research is being conducted to turn the gel into an easily accessible and prescriptible treatment for patient use.