1131 GMT January 17, 2018
The capsules need to be tested to see if they help healing in animals and humans, but they could eventually lead to "living bandage" technologies: wound dressings embedded with capsules of stem cells to help the wound regenerate, Medical Xpress reported.
"The encapsulation seems to increase the stem cells' regenerative potential," said Gerlinde Van de Walle of the Baker Institute for Animal Health in the College of Veterinary Medicine, adding that the reasons why are not yet known. "It's possible that putting them in capsules changes the interactions between stem cells or changes the microenvironment."
To her knowledge, Van de Walle said, this is the first time encapsulated stem cells have been used to treat wounds. Her team used horse stem cells and cell cultures because, unlike mice, the healing process in horses shares important similarities with the healing process in humans and because wound healing in horses is a particularly difficult problem in veterinary medicine.
Mesenchymal stem cells are adult stem cells that can be isolated from different parts of the body, and it's long been known that they secrete substances that aid in tissue healing. Problems arise when trying to use these stem cells in real patients, Van de Walle said, because they often won't stay put in the healing area and can occasionally form tumors or develop into unwanted cell types. She and her team began exploring the possibilities of encapsulating these cells as a way of avoiding these pitfalls. The capsules help cells stay in place while they secrete substances into the wound and can be removed easily if the stem cells would develop in an adverse way.