While it has seen its share of controversy in the past, stem cell research has proven to be one of the most promising areas of study in the scientific community. However, up to this point, the process of gathering enough stem cells from donors has been invasive and can lead to some nasty side effects.

But researchers with the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) in Australia have found a new way to harvest stem cells that might change that. The premise is that, instead of working with the growth factors that are currently being used, scientists can utilize a molecule that is able to better mobilize stem cells so that they can be extracted safely, quickly, and without side effects.

Improving the process

Dr. Susie Nilsson and her team at CSIRO explain how current methods are not optimal and make many potential candidates hesitant to donate stem cells. The process involves injecting a growth factor into a donor for several days, after which the stem cells are able to be harvested. Unfortunately, this process, in addition to being time consuming, can cause side effects that include bone pain and spleen enlargement, according to Nilsson. But even if the side effects don’t proliferate, some donors are never able to produce the amount of stem cells needed, making the whole process pointless.

The new process would eliminate many of these problems by using a newly discovered molecule known as BOP. Researchers found that when they combined BOP with another molecule, called AMD3100, the stem cells were able to mobilize much more quickly. Nilsson explains that “a procedure that once took days can be reduced to around an hour.”

Additionally, since the previous injections don’t need to be used, the harmful side effects would no longer be an issue. This could greatly increase the confidence of potential candidates so that more donors are willing to go through the process.

Next step

The next step for researchers will be to conduct a phase 1 clinical trial using the BOP molecule. They will first be testing it in tandem with the growth factor that is currently being used before moving on to using it with AMD3100.

The tests have given researchers and scientists hope that their discovery can be worthwhile and help people. “We’re looking forward to seeing patients benefit from this discovery,” said Professor Peter Currie, director of Australian Regenerative Medicine Institute (ARMI).

The full study has been published in the journal Nature Communications

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