April 8, 2014

Growing Stem Cells in Space to Treat Stroke Patients

By William Rupp, M.D.

Rupp portraitRegenerative medicine promises to someday radically transform the way we deliver care to patients. Quite simply, it has the potential to fully heal damaged tissues and organs, offering solutions and hope for people who have conditions that today are beyond repair. This bold new field of medicine is the future of health care.

Even though we have seen tremendous progress in medicine, there are few effective ways to treat the root causes of many diseases and injuries. In many cases, physicians can only manage patients’ symptoms using medications or devices. Mayo Clinic’s Center for Regenerative Medicine hopes to change all of this through three interrelated approaches:International Space Station over Earth

  • Boosting the body’s natural ability to heal itself.
  • Transplanting healthy cells, tissues and organs.
  • Regenerating specific types of cells to diseased organs to find ways to overcome the donor shortage.

Today, Mayo Clinic scientists and clinicians are studying ways to use human stem cells to develop new ways to treat and manage chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart failure, and degenerative nerve, bone and joint conditions.

Abba Zubair, M.D., Ph.D., medical and scientific director of the Cell Therapy Laboratory, at Mayo Clinic in Florida, was recently awarded a grant to send human stem cells in space to see if they grow more rapidly in space than stem cells grown on Earth.

Dr. Zubair believes that cells grown in the International Space Station could help patients recover from a stroke, and that it may even be possible to generate human tissues and organs in space. The experiment will be the first one Mayo Clinic has conducted in space and the first to use these human stem cells.

Editor's note: William Rupp, M.D., vice-president of Mayo Clinic and CEO of Mayo Clinic in Florida.

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