Ex­per­i­men­tal drug re­grows dam­aged body tis­sue

The China Post - - LIFE -

An ex­per­i­men­tal drug treat­ment has opened a new door in re­gen­er­a­tive medicine by help­ing lab mice re­grow dam­aged liver, colon and bone mar­row tis­sue, U.S. re­searchers said Thurs­day.

If the ther­apy is found to work in hu­mans, sci­en­tists say it may save the lives of peo­ple who are crit­i­cally ill with colon or liver dis­ease and pos­si­bly some can­cers.

How­ever, ex­perts cau­tioned that the re­search is at a very early stage, and more work is needed be­fore it can be tested in peo­ple.

The study led by re­searchers at Case West­ern Re­serve and UT South­west­ern Med­i­cal Cen­ter is pub­lished in the jour­nal Science.

“We are very ex­cited,” said coau­thor San­ford Markowitz, pro­fes­sor of can­cer ge­net­ics at Case West­ern Re­serve’s School of Medicine.

“We have de­vel­oped a drug that acts like a vi­ta­min for tis­sue stem cells, stim­u­lat­ing their abil­ity to re­pair tis­sues more quickly,” he added.

“The drug heals dam­age in mul­ti­ple tis­sues, which sug­gests to us that it may have ap­pli­ca­tions in treat­ing many dis­eases.”

The drug is now known only as SW033291.

It can shut down the ac­tiv­ity of a gene prod­uct found in all hu­mans, 15-hy­drox­yprostaglandin de­hy­dro­ge­nase (15-PGDH).

That, in turn, al­lows room for more prostaglandin E2, which en­cour­ages many types of tis­sue stem cells to grow and pro­motes heal­ing.

Cau­tion Urged

Re­searchers have per­formed a se­ries of ex­per­i­ments, show­ing that SW033291 could in­ac­ti­vate 15-PGDH in a test tube, in­side a cell, and when in­jected into lab an­i­mals.

Some mice were given lethal doses of ra­di­a­tion and then a par­tial bone mar­row trans­plant. The mice that re­ceived SW033291 sur­vived, while the oth­ers died.

Other stud­ies showed mice given SW033291 re­cov­ered nor­mal blood counts six days faster than mice that did not get the treat­ment.

Mice with ul­cer­a­tive col­i­tis were given the treat­ment and it “healed vir­tu­ally all the ul­cers in the an­i­mals’ colons and pre­vented col­i­tis symptoms,” said the study.

“In mice where two-thirds of their liv­ers had been re­moved sur­gi­cally, SW033291 ac­cel­er­ated re­growth of new liver nearly twice as fast as nor­mally hap­pens with­out med­i­ca­tion.”

The drug showed no ad­verse side ef­fects.

Re­searchers who were not in­volved with the work said the study showed prom­ise, but urged a heavy dose of cau­tion.

“The drug seems to be too good to be true,” said Dusko Il­lic, a stem cell ex­pert at Kings Col­lege Lon­don.

“We would have to be sure that noth­ing else was wrong with any or­gan in the body,” be­cause if there were can­cer cells present, the treat­ment would likely cause tu­mor cells to grow along with other tis­sue.

How­ever, Ilaria Bel­lan­tuono, an ex­pert in stem cell science and skele­tal aging at the Uni­ver­sity of Sh­effield, said a key part of the drug’s prom­ise could be in help­ing can­cer pa­tients, if it is proven safe.

The “treat­ment has the po­ten­tial of boost­ing patents’ re­silience and im­prov­ing their re­sponse to can­cer treat­ment,” said Bel­lan­tuono.

“This study is a proof of con­cept in mice and more ex­per­i­men­tal work is needed to ver­ify the long term safety of such an ap­proach but it surely shows prom­ise.”

Study au­thors said the first peo­ple to re­ceive the ex­per­i­men­tal treat­ment in clin­i­cal tri­als would likely be pa­tients who are re­ceiv­ing bone mar­row trans­plants, have ul­cer­a­tive col­i­tis, or are un­der­go­ing liver surgery.

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