Stem Cell Research

Stem cell research The stem cell research team at CReATe studies how specialized cells isolated from the umbilical cord can help repair tissues and organs impacted by disease or injury. Human umbilical cord perivascular cells (HUCPVCs) are a type of adult stem cell also known as “mesenchymal stem cells or MSCs”. MSCs isolated from various parts of the body have gained a lot of attention for their utility in regenerative medicine because they can act like “multi-target” drugs. Our studies to date suggest that HUCPVCs are a young source of stem cells with greater regenerative capacity than older sources of MSCs, such as those derived from the bone marrow.

Our studies aim to answer the following questions:

  1. Do HUCPVCs help regenerate specific tissues and organs? (see 3 active areas of research below)
  2. How do HUCPVCs work to repair damaged or injured tissues and organs?
  3. How can we grow or prepare HUCPVCs to maximise their regenerative properties and develop new cell therapies?
Stem Cell-Based Fertility Preservation Research

Stem Cell-Based Fertility Preservation Research

Exposure to environmental pollutants, drugs (for example chemotherapies) and infection can damage stem cells, spermatozoa or oocytes, as well as other important support cells in the reproductive organs. This can lead to loss of fertility due to an inability to produce functional sperm in the testis, eggs in the ovary, or to allow an embryo to grow in the uterus. In addition, damage to reproductive organs has important effects on hormonal balance affecting many other body systems and function. There is no proven way to prevent damage to reproductive organs such as the ovary, testicle and uterus in response to damaging agents.

Our research team is developing new methods to use stem cells, including HUCPVCs, to prevent loss of germ cells in the ovary and testis, and to boost the function of stem cells that reside in the uterus and form the endometrium needed for a pregnancy to begin. We also study spermatogonial stem cells, the specialized cells in the testis that are needed to produce sperm, and are devising ways to grow them in a dish to treat infertility and to improve our understanding of male infertility.

Cardiovascular Regeneration Research

Healthy blood flow is essential for all tissues in the human body. Many of the most severe injuries and diseases – such as stroke and infarction - are closely connected to damage or dysfunction of blood vessels. Our research has shown that HUCPVCs are able to support and regenerate cells and blood vessels after injury, such as a heart attack, in pre-clinical models. With financial support from the Ontario Centre of Excellence - Ontario Research Fund and in collaboration with the University Health Network (Toronto), we are developing a HUCPVC-based cell therapy for myocardial infarction. We are also exploring the possibility of using HUCPVCs for re-growing and repairing blood vessels in other vascular disease models to preserve and regenerate organs after ischemic injury.

Cardiovascular Regeneration Research
Neurovascular Regeneration Research

Neurovascular Regeneration Research

Diseases and injuries impacting the brain are becoming increasingly common and are associated with major personal and socioeconomic costs. Some of the most devastating neurological conditions like Alzheimer’s disease or traumatic brain injury, involve cell death and/or damage to blood vessels in crucial brain areas. Our researchers have found that HUCPVCs secrete factors known to support brain cell survival, promote regrowth, dampen an exaggerated immune response and help rebuild damaged blood vessels. We are actively testing the ability of HUCPVCs and factors isolated from HUCPVCs, to prevent cell and behavioral changes associated with common neurodegenerative and psychiatric conditions.