Professor’s Research Shows Possible Alternative to Organ Tranplants
Damaged or diseased organs may someday be restored with an injection of endothelial cells – the cells that make up the structure of blood vessels – eliminating the need for donated organs and transplants, according to study’s senior author, Dr. Rabbany, Hofstra’s Jean Nerken Professor of Engineering and the Director of the Bioengineering Program. This study was conducted by Dr. Rabbany and his colleagues at the Weill Cornell Medical College .
The study shows that endothelial cells derived from embryonic stem cells behave as generic endothelial cells, being able to be taught how to act like an organ-specific blood vessel. These endothelial cells and the organs they are transplanted into work together to repair damage and restore function. According to Dr. Rabbany, these embryonic-derived endothelial cells are versatile, so they can be transplanted into different tissues, become educated by the tissue, and acquire the characteristics of the native endothelial cells.”
When these generic endothelial cells are introduced into the liver of kidneys of a mouse undergoing repair, they became indistinguishable from native endothelial cells. These naive endothelial cells acquire the phenotype – the molecular profile and signature – of the native pre-existing endothelial cells due to the unique microenvironment in the organ. Using bioengineering methods, researchers can scale up the production of these cells in large numbers in the laboratory in order to have large quantities of healthy, stable and viable cells for transplantation.
According to Rabbany “These transplanted endothelial cells are being educated by the unique biophysical mincroenvironment organ in which they are placed. They morph into endothelial cells that belong in the organ, and that can repair it. If you have a heart injury and you need to reform some of your cardiomyocytes, the endothelial cells that are around the heart secrete factors that are specific for helping a heart repair itself”.
Additional preclinical investigation is required before study of endothelial cell transplantation in humans is possible, but the therapeutic potential of endothelial cell transplantation may be endless.