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Research // Research Grants

Professor S Ray, Oxford Brooks University - £16,000 for Stem Cell Research

A research grant of £16,000 for Stem Cell Research. This grant was made possible through fundraising undertaken by Sarah Waud (see here presenting the cheque to Professor Steve Ray) and her family.

Stimulation of muscle regeneration and repair using autologous fat derived stem cells
Steve Ray PhD Chief Scientist Natural Biosciences SA (Switzerland)
Senior Lecturer in Clinical Physiology Oxford Brookes University (UK)
Professor of Neuroscience Carrick Institute of Graduate Studies (USA)

Stem cells are a special versatile group of cells found in many different tissues of the body whose job it is to grow and maintain the different tissues and organs of the human body. Further, it is the job of these stem cells to repair these same tissues and organs when they are damaged. Understanding how they are capable of doing this, and what goes wrong with the process in disease, has great utility in developing new therapies for degenerative conditions such as Myositis.

The traditional view of using stem cells as a therapy has been to transplant stem cells into the body to replace damaged tissue and this approach is making progress in both pre-clinical testing and clinical trials for a variety of degenerative diseases. One particular type of adult stem cell has emerged as front runner in translating this research from the laboratory to the clinic and these are called mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs). These can relatively easily be harvested from the patient to be treated from either fat tissue or from bone marrow, and expanded in numbers in the laboratory for the development of therapies. Our research group and our collaborators have shown that MSCs from either source are capable of producing muscle tissue in the laboratory (1) thus making them a very relevant potential therapy for myositis. However it has emerged over the last few years that these remarkable stem cells are much more versatile at repairing tissue than merely being a repairing tissue then merely being a substitute for damaged cells. It is now well established that MSCs mediate much of their regenerative effects by making secretions which communicate with damaged tissue to protect it and stimulate its repair. This has been demonstrated in models of neurodegenerative disease, heart disease, renal failure and various maladies of the muscular skeletal system. These stem cell secretions are known to stimulate the repair by a wide variety of mechanisms including activating local resident stem cell populations, minimizing cell death, controlling inflammatory responses and modulating abnormal immune responses in auto-immune disorders. Thus the potential of utilizing these stem cell secretions for therapy in myositis is very appealing.

Stem cell secretions can be harvested from laboratory maintained populations of a patient's own stem cells harvested from a small sample of fat. The secretions can be collected in normal saline for infusion back into the patient and thus could be utilised as a cell free therapy which circumvents two potential risk factors of using stem cells in human therapy namely possible tumour risk or potential immune reactions as no cells are transplanted only their secretions are used. A further advantage of this approach is that several populations of the patient's cells can be frozen and stored to provide for future therapy needs.

The project supported from this very generous grant will be used to support an ongoing research programme focusing on stimulating muscle regeneration using stem cell secretions. This programme is a collaboration between our research and development team at Natural Biosciences and Professor Ketan Patel's research group at the University of Reading. Specifically, the Myositis Support Group funding will investigate the effectiveness of fat derived stem cell secretions on stimulating muscle specific stem cell activity to regrow and repair muscle tissue.

We have developed a technique to dissect and isolate individual muscle fibres in the laboratory and visualise how muscle stem cells migrate along these fibres and mediate repair. The specific project will have two main aims. First, we will explore the effects of damaged tissue and inflammatory signals on muscle tissue stem cell activity and then investigate if resident muscle stem cells in such damaged tissue can be stimulated back into activity using MSC generated secretions. Preliminary data has been very encouraging and this grant will facilitate this work being translated into a viable future therapeutic option for myositis.

The research team involved in this work have all donated their time freely to the project and the generous funding from the Myositis Support Group will only be used for laboratory consumables used in the project. The project will utilise the facilities and expertise of several research groups in collaboration which includes Prof Ketan Patel, Dr Phil Dash (University of Reading), Dr Dionne Tannetta (University of Oxford) and Dr Mohi Rezvani, Dr Mark Cranfield (Natural Biosciences SA). Two PhD students are also contributing to this work Mr Rob Mitchell and Ms Shirley Keeton.

On behalf of us all, may I take this opportunity to thank the Myositis Support Group and in particular Mrs Sarah Waud for supporting this project and I very much look forward to reporting back to you at the end of the project.

1. Collins-Hooper, H., Luke, G., Cranfield, M., Otto, W., Ray, S. & Patel, K. (2011)
Efficient myogenic reprogramming of adult white fat stem cells and bone marrow stem cells by freshly isolated skeletal muscle fibres. Translational Research. Vol 158 (6), 334-343.

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