A team of researchers from the Catholic University of Korea School of Medicine recently revealed that they have been developing a method of stem cell therapy which allows for more efficient drug delivery at the cellular level, and it could also play a part in bone regeneration. Published in the November issue of Biomaterials, these groundbreaking findings represent the first successful attempt to use saponin-based nanoparticles in stem cell therapy.
According to Korea Biomedical Review, the team found that nanoparticles displayed the potential to promote osteogenic differentiation (the process by which skeletal stem cells form, develop, repair, and maintain) of human mesenchymal (skeletal) stem cells (hMSCs) — adult cells obtained from bone marrow, not fetal cell lines — and subsequently enhance bone regeneration.
These nanoparticles, based on naturally occurring compounds called saponins found in cells of legume plants, exhibited the capability of rapid cellular absorption as well as the sustained ability to deliver drugs between cells. This sustained intracellular drug delivery capability is important because it could help direct stem cell differentiation, a pivotal aspect of stem cell therapy that directs the pliant stem cells to turn into the desired cell.
The team was able to create a concoction based on the saponin nanoparticles that successfully directed the human mesenchymal stem cells to differentiate into osteoblasts, or cells responsible for bone formation. The study found that the unique properties of the saponin enabled nanoparticles to be absorbed into the stem cells without any prompting (electrical charge) from the researchers and facilitated the formation of cellular pores.
Researchers found success in testing their data on a defective femur bone of a rat. The experimental treatment was shown to regenerate the bone at a much faster rate than normal and the rat recovered completely. The team notes that the nanoparticles allow drugs to remain within cells longer, allowing the drugs to have longer effects before they are vacated.
Professor Koo Hee-beom, of Catholic University of Korea’s Catholic Photomedicine Research Institute, commented on the study:
“This study shows the potential of nanoparticle-facilitated drug delivery within stem cells,” Professor Koo said. “We anticipate its broad application in various stem cell therapy domains in the coming years.”