Research by UC Davis stem cell program director Jan Nolta and others has shown that adult stem cells are what might be called "paramedics of the body." These stem cells can move rapidly to areas of tissue damage that have inflammation or diminished blood flow, and can secrete factors that enhance repair and revascularization. They also have been shown to donate healthy mitochondria — the “batteries” or powerplants of the cell, and other restorative contents to damaged cells. Autologous adult stem cells, removed from the marrow of patients, purified in the GMP facility, and reinjected locally into damaged tissue, or into the bloodstream of the same patient, have been shown to be useful for increasing blood flow into infarcted hearts, damaged limbs, and occluded retinas.
The UC Davis Stem Cell Program and GMP Facility are participating in clinical trials using adult stem cells to address a wide range of diseases, including:
- Retinal occlusion – Animal studies have shown that in eyes where the retinal blood vessels have been damaged by diabetes or high eye pressure, adult bone marrow stem cells injected in the eye resulted in dramatic healing of the retinal blood vessels. For this study, autologous marrow-derived stem cells will be injected into the intra-vitreal space for the repair of ischemic, damaged retina in retinal occlusion.
- Heart attacks – The leading cause of death in the United States occurs when the blood supply to a part of the heart is interrupted. This clinical trial will use autologous AC133+ stem cells in an effort to repair damage to heart tissue following a heart attack.
- Peripheral vascular disease – As fatty deposits build in the inner linings of artery walls, the blockages can restrict blood circulation to the kidneys, stomach, arms, legs and feet. This clinical trial will use human adult autologous stem and progenitor cells for restoring blood flow. Stem cells will be administered using cutting-edge catheters developed at UC Davis.