St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, Ontario is the site of new research that uses bone marrow stem cells to treat chronic kidney disease and heart failure in rats.
Darren Yuen and Richard Gilbert of St. Michael’s Hospital were the first to show in 2010 that enriched stem cells improved heart and kidney functions in rats afflicted with both diseases. Their work generated concerns about the side effects of returning such stem cells to the body.
Since 2010, Yuen and Gilbert have found that enriched bone marrow stem cells secrete stromal cell–derived factor-1α (SDF-1α), a chemokine that is made by ischemic tissue but is rapidly degraded by dipeptidyl peptidase-4 (DPP-4), in culture dishes. Injection of SDF-1α into rats has many of the same positive effects as when the stem cells themselves are injected into rats. Even more remarkably, if a drug that inhibits the enzyme DPP-4 is given (sitagliptin) produced many improvements as well.
“We’ve shown that we can use these ‘hormones’ to replicate the beneficial effects of the stem cells in treating animals with chronic kidney disease and heart failure,” said Yuen, who practices as a nephrologist. “In our view, this is a significant advance for stem cell therapies because it gets around having to inject stem cells.”
Yuen said that they do not yet know what kind of hormone the cells are secreting, but identifying the hormone would be the first step toward the goal of developing a synthetic drug.
Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is much more prevalent than was once believed, with recent estimates suggesting that up to five percent of the Canadian population may be affected with this condition.
The number of people with CKD and end-stage renal failure is expected to rise as the population ages and more people develop Type 2 diabetes. People with kidney disease often develop heart disease, and many of them die from heart failure rather than kidney failure.