Groundbreaking Research of Endothelial Cells May Someday Lead to Elimination of Organ Transplants
Research by a group of scientists, including Dr. Sina Rabbany, Hofstra’s Jean Nerken Professor of Engineering and Director of the Bioengineering Program, and his colleagues from Weill Cornell Medical College, found that damaged or diseased organs may someday be restored with an injection of endothelial cells – the cells that make up the structure of blood vessels. This could someday eliminate the need for donated organs and transplants. The findings of this research were published in Stem Cell Journal.
The studies show that endothelial cells drive regeneration because they adapt and learn how to act like an organ-specific blood vessel. Previously it was thought that blood vessels were the same throughout the body. This is not the case. Depending on the organ, the endothelial cells in the blood vessels vary in shape and function. According to Dr. Rabbany, the 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.
Endothelial cells and the organs they are transplanted into work together to repair damage and restore function. According to Dr. Rabbany “The transplanted endothelial cells are educated by the unique biophysical microenvironment of the 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.”
For example, when generic endothelial cells derived from embryonic stem cells are introduced into the liver or kidneys of a mouse, they became indistinguishable from the native endothelial cells. The transplanted endothelial cells acquired 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. 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.
For more information on these studies click here.