Study: Stem Cells in MD Therapy Do Better in Low-Oxygen Environment

The results of a Purdue University study showed better survival rates for stem cells used in a muscular dystrophy treatment if the cells' environment had lower levels of oxygen.

Shihuan Kuang, a Purdue assistant professor of animal sciences, conducted the study with Weiyi Liu, a postdoctoral research associate. The study focused on stem-cell therapy for Duchenne muscular dystrophy.

A report on the study explained that patients with Duchenne muscular dystrophy experience "the constant breakdown of muscles and gradual depletion of stem cells that are responsible for repairing the damage and progressive muscle wasting." Healthy stem cells can be implanted to fight the wasting away of muscle, but to date, the stem cells haven't often survived the implanting procedure.

Kuang and Liu sought to re-create an environment for the stem cells that more closely resembled what stem cells would experience in the human body.

The report of the study said survival of "implanted muscle stem cells could be increased by as much as fivefold in a mouse model if the cells are cultured under oxygen levels similar to those found in human muscles."

Kuang explained, "Stem cells survive in a microenvironment in the body that has a low oxygen level. But when we culture cells, there is a lot of oxygen around the petri dish. We wanted to see if less oxygen could mimic that microenvironment. When we did that, we saw that more stem cells survived the transplant."

Liu theorized, the report said, that stem cells raised in richer oxygen environments acclimate to those oxygen levels, then "suffocated" when transplanted into muscles, which have lower oxygen levels.

The study using mice had more stem cells survive implantation, and the stem cells were able to duplicate themselves in a healthy, normal way.

The findings of the study were published in Development, a research journal focusing on developmental biology.

About the Author

Laurie Watanabe is the editor of Mobility Management. She can be reached at lwatanabe@1105media.com.

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