Dr. Harold Brem’s lab is now expanding its focus to include therapies that utilize adult stem cells. These cells, which have the capacity to differentiate into many different types of mature cells, hold particular promise as wound-healing agents. For example, it’s been demonstrated that bone marrow derived stem cells (BMDSCs) can differentiate into skin keratinocytes and fibroblasts—a feature essential to wound healing—and that when delivered into the wound bed they promote wound healing by differentiation and release of factors that restore blood vessel formation. In other studies, injection of BMDSCs directly onto an open wound accelerated closure. Other types of stem cells have also been injected into chronic wounds in patients in research studies, where they contributed to the replenishment of collagen and closure of the wound with normal skin cells.
We believe that the development of successful stem cell therapies for chronic wounds would revolutionize the care of such wounds. In particular, it would represent a major breakthrough in the treatment of diabetic individuals, who typically have multiple chronic co-morbidities and disabilities as well as a shorter life expectancy. This pioneering work has the potential to reduce patient suffering while also making healthcare for such patients more efficient and cost-effective. In pursuit of this goal, we have established relationships with other clinical sites that will enable us to test these cells in different communities in order to demonstrate that it is the cellular therapy itself—and not simply the very high standard of care in our wound clinic—that is improving healing. We are now seeking additional funding to complete the pilot studies that will justify launching the large clinical trials.