If the development of genetic editing approaches to induce functional changes to cell behavior to enhance their efficacy has led to remarkable advances in gene-engineered cell therapy, the development, on the other hand, of synthetic systems for tissue engineered and regenerative medicine-based therapies has made inroads as a robust, fully-controllable bottom-up approach to cell and gene therapy. Synthethic approaches have often offered complementary tools – such as three-dimensional scaffolds – upon which to build in vivo-like biological function. an example of this are tissue engineered-scaffolds and three-dimensional substrates.
Now, microengineered structures have been developed which cross over to fully replace cellular function, rather than enhance it.
Case in point: A new study described the development of microengineered particles with cardiac cell-like function, as a type of “synthetic stem cell.”
The work was described in a manuscript published last week in Nature Communications, titled Therapeutic microparticles functionalized with biomimetic cardiac stem cell membranes and secretome by the lab of Dr. Ken Che, associate professor of molecular biomedical sciences at North Carolina State University.
Called synthetic cell-mimicking microparticles, they are made up of poly (lactic-co-glycolic acid) (PLGA) to which cardiac cell-extracted growth factors are added. This creates, effectively, a biodegradable, synthetic shell which contains beneficial growth factors that impart biological function. Such biological function was tested both in vitro and in vivo, in a mouse model with myocardial infarction. In both cases, and particularly in vivo, the microparticles exhibited cardiac cell-like function to support cardiac tissue growth.
While biological function is successfully displayed by these structures, they do not exhibit other cellular-like activity, such as division.
Further work is expected to answer more questions about the long-term potential of these structures as therapeutic vehicles, which will bring such work closer to answering questions about its potential clinical benefit.