A squad of researchers from the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Coimbra, commanded by Dr. Lino Ferreira, MIT Portugal Program Faculty and researcher at the Center for Neuroscience and Cell Biology (CNC) in collaboration with Langer Lab at MIT (USA), has developed a new technology, which is promising to comprehend and treat ischemic diseases. This research is the outcome of the work instigated by Bio engineering PhD Alumni at IST Sezin Aday during her MPP Doctoral Program whose PhD thesis was recommended both by L. Ferreira and R. Langer. Under MIT Portugal Program she was able to expend the first year’s studies of this work in Langer Lab at MIT.

Ischemic diseases (such as stroke, heart attack, limb ischemia etc.) are initiated by the blockade of a blood vessel inhibiting blood flow to the tissue and are the principal cause of death around the world. This restricted oxygen supply results in the irreparable damage or decease of the tissue. Stem cells may be used to regenerate the tissue with restricted oxygen supply by forming new blood vessels and refurbish blood flow to the tissue. However, maximum of the cells die after injection and cannot help to have adequate blood flow retrieval.

The team found that by fastening a protein called vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) to microscopic particles can upsurge the survival time of stem cells, which could be used to help healing of the tissues, after the inoculation into the body. To comprehend how this protein can upsurge the survival of the cells, the researchers tested the molecules called “micro RNAs” which are imperative for the function of the cells. They found that a micro RNA called “microRNA-17” has diminished in the stem cells when attached vascular endothelial growth factor was used. To mimic what attached protein does, researchers lessened microRNA-17 quantity in their cells and vaccinated them into the leg muscle of the animals after cutting the blood flow to the leg. When the blood flow to the leg is cut, the leg begins to die. This may cause the loss of the toes or even the leg. However, the stem cells with diminished microRNA-17 can recuperate the blood flow in the leg by staying there for longer and establishing new blood vessels. By finding a way to upsurge the life of the stem cells after inoculations, researcher can upsurge their existence in the tissue, thus, may help the regeneration of the tissues after the obstruction ofblood flow. The method developed can help researchers to comprehend and treat other conditions, where survival of the cells is necessary. This platform may also be used for better incorporation of the cells to the tissue in cell therapy applications.