Hydrogels boost ability of stem cells to restore eyesight and heal brains

Toronto scientists have made a breakthrough in cell transplantation using a gel-like biomaterial that keeps cells alive and helps them integrate better into tissue. In two early lab trials, this has already shown to partially reverse blindness and help the brain recover from stroke.
Led by University of Toronto professors, the team encased stem cells in a hydrogel that boosted their healing abilities when transplanted into both the eye and the brain. These findings are part of an ongoing effort to develop new therapies to repair nerve damage caused by a disease or injury.
Stem cells hold great therapeutic promise because of their ability to turn into any cell type in the body, including their potential to generate replacement tissues and organs. While scientists are adept at growing stem cells in a lab dish, once these cells are on their own, transplanted into a desired spot in the body, they have trouble thriving. The new environment is complex and poorly understood, and implanted stem cells often die or don’t integrate properly into the surrounding tissue.
“This study goes one step further, showing that the hydrogels do more than just hold stem cells together; they directly promote stem cell survival and integration. This brings stem-cell based therapy closer to reality”