Engineering stem cells to treat liver disease

During scientific rotations in medical faculty, Kianna Nguyen encountered many sufferers with liver failure and was struck by a grim actuality: Their solely hope was a transplant. The scarcity of donor organs and therapeutic choices was without delay irritating and inspirational, triggering her analysis curiosity in mobile therapies for liver failure.

Kianna Nguyen

“Research provides us with the understanding to develop tools to make big changes in clinical problems like those facing patients with liver failure,” says Nguyen. “I want to be on the forefront of developing medical technologies that provide alternatives. I derive a lot of passion for research through thinking about the future patients I will be treating in the clinic.”

Nguyen is a fifth-year M.D.-Ph.D. pupil within the Mayo Clinic Alix School of Medicine, who can be finishing her Ph.D. in regenerative sciences by means of the Mayo Clinic Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences.  

Her analysis is targeted on redirecting human embryonic stem cells to change into liver cells with the potential for cell, tissue and organ restore. This analysis is geared toward offering an alternate to a liver transplant.

Supervising her analysis is mentor Alexander Revzin, Ph.D., who leads Mayo Clinic’s Cellular Microsystems and Biosensors Laboratory. Dr Revzin is a biomedical engineer and scientist whose lab has developed a method to encapsulate stem cells and reprogram them to change into completely different cell varieties with therapeutic potential. The stem cells reside in a microcapsule —  a microscopic plastic container crammed with an aqueous answer. The microcapsule protects the cells from bodily harm throughout bioprocessing and could also be used to ship indicators that direct stem cells towards a desired tissue corresponding to pancreas or liver tissue. The objective of the challenge is to use microcapsules to make liver tissue in adequate portions to be used in people. The hope is to someday transplant these cells as a remedy for complicated ailments corresponding to liver failure.

Alexander Revzin, Ph.D.

“Encapsulation is an exciting new way to allow for scalable manufacturing of cellular therapies while decreasing the cost,” says Dr. Revzin. “Kianna Nguyen has a novel ability set to work on this challenge. She is skilled as a chemical engineer and biomaterials scientist and is well-positioned to develop encapsulation methods. She is keen about enhancing outcomes for sufferers with end-stage liver disease.”

“The additional advantage of growing liver cells inside of capsules is they are provided with a protective shell so that they are not destroyed by the immune system when they are transplanted into the body,” provides Nguyen. “Ultimately, the goal of this project is to be able to redirect liver cells on a large scale.”

Regenerative sciences is an rising subject geared toward delivering new medicines from organic sources corresponding to blood and cells to tackle situations with few therapeutic choices. The objective is to remedy disease fairly than treat signs. Mayo Clinic’s Center for Regenerative Biotherapeutics is main efforts to develop groundbreaking curricula to train physicians and scientists for this doubtlessly transformative medical care.  

A disease with problems

More than 100 million folks within the U.S. have some type of liver disease, in accordance to the American Liver Foundation. While the liver has a outstanding skill to regenerate, persistent situations corresponding to cirrhosis, hepatitis and fatty liver disease can rapidly progress to end-stage disease. Without a transplant, many sufferers will die.

Some folks with most cancers or alcohol use dysfunction will not be appropriate for transplantation. Those who’re transplant candidates face problems together with rejection, an infection and threat of most cancers.

“Stem cell-derived liver cells could provide a renewable source of liver cells to serve as a treatment for patients with liver failure. This could open the door to treatment for many liver patients who previously did not have any options,” says Nguyen.

A local of Colorado, Nguyen was attracted to Mayo by the chance to train in scientific and laboratory settings with a few of the most achieved clinicians and researchers on the planet.

“Mayo Clinic has so many exemplary physician-scientists. There is no shortage of mentors because faculty here are all so happy to share their expertise with you,” she says. “I have been able to grow so much as both a budding clinician and scientist. I am thankful to continue my education here.”

Nguyen aspires to specialize her follow and analysis in gastroenterology with a concentrate on hepatology (liver) transplantation. She is on a path to graduate together with her M.D. and Ph.D. in 2027.

This article first appeared on the blog of the Mayo Clinic Center for Regenerative Biotherapeutics.

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