Children’s Hospital Boston has achieved a number of milestones in adult stem cell research. Its researchers were the first to:
- Isolate lung stem cells, both in normal lungs and in lung cancer.
- Identify a type of stem cell that forms at least two main cell types in the heart.
- Demonstrate a way to boost numbers of stem cells in the laboratory, using a drug called PGE2 to increase production of blood stem cells.
- Take a drug from stem cell research into clinical trials, with the aim of helping patients with leukemia and lymphoma.
A large effort, involving many labs at Children’s, is being devoted to understanding the cues that coax stem cells to divide and multiply, transform into specialized cell types, migrate to other parts of the body, and become a functioning part of tissues. Understanding these cues will help in designing more effective cell-based treatments. Within the Stem Cell Program at Boston Children’s Hospital, an innovative new study is following the live workings of adult stem cells in the body to understand how they behave day-to-day in maintaining tissues.
Other ongoing research in adult stem cells includes:
- Investigation of stem cells in the small intestine, kidney, and other organs
- Using stem cells from umbilical cord blood to build muscle in muscular dystrophy
- Using stem cells from the amniotic fluid to create tissue-engineered implants for babies with birth defects.
- Using progenitor cells isolated from blood and muscle to build heart valves, blood vessels and electrically conductive tissue for the heart.