New surgery technique paves way to restore failing organs

Research shows strategy to boost the survival of transplanted stem cells could help restore failing organs in the body.
By Amy Wallace  |  May 15, 2017 at 1:36 PM
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May 15 (UPI) -- Researchers at the University of California at San Francisco, or UCSF, have found a technique to transplant cells into organs to treat disease and restore failing organs.

The technique involves piercing cells with rapid pulses of electricity, which allows researchers to create a hospitable environment to boost stem cell survival when transplanting cells into organs to restore them during organ failure.

"Our research is in its early stage," Dr. Tammy T. Chang, an assistant professor in the UCSF Department of Surgery, said in a press release. "We've shown we can create the hospitable environment for new cells. Full demonstration of the procedure's value will be when we can introduce stem cells to restore function to diseased livers and other organs."

The new technique called irreversible electroporation, or IRE, kills a section of liver cells with microsecond electric pulses to create a pocket for transplanting new cells into the organ with minimal collateral damage.

Researchers directed IRE at selected sites on the liver of anesthetized mice to prepare for transplanting cells into organs. The pulses carved out the necessary pocket without harming vital structures between cells known as extracellular matrix providing support critical for the new cells to survive. The procedure triggers minimal inflammation and scarring in treated tissue.

"Inflammation normally produces scar tissue as part of the healing process, and this environment is hostile to new cells," Chang said. "We found that at certain settings, IRE can kill organ cells without inducing inflammation, leaving behind an environment -- a niche -- friendly for new cells to set up shop. We believe that establishing this niche is essential for new cells to engraft efficiently."

The team used IRE to implant hospitable niche in the livers of mice and transplanted clusters of liver cells, or hepatocytes, into the space, which established healthy colonies.

IRE could be used as a minimally invasive stem cell transplantation procedure to regenerate organs compromised by defects in specific types of cells like in end-stage liver, kidney, heart and lung diseases.

The study was published in Bio Techniques.

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