With the application of a novel study called Skin stem cell biology, it has been possible to regenerate and repair human tissue and bones with total success in the country, which has made it possible to save the lives of patients with a serious diagnosis of burns, injuries and trauma. as well as preventing the amputation of parts of the body.
This program is developed in the Cell Therapy Unit of the Venezuelan Institute of Scientific Research (Ivic), which investigates and clinically applies bone and skin regeneration protocols from its laboratories, to take them to important areas of intensive care and burn unit in hospitals in Venezuela.
“Regenerative medicine is considered the medicine of the future. It is about using a set of tools to replace tissues or organs that have been affected by a disease or injury ”, explained Olga Wittig, deputy head of the Ivic Cell Therapy Unit in an interview with the team of Últimas Noticias.
Cell therapy in the country began in 2005 when doctors Egidio Romano, a researcher and former retired director of the Ivic, and José Cardier, currently head of the Institute's Cell Therapy Unit, investigated and successfully experimented with the union of research basic laboratory and immediate application in the clinical part of the protocols.
The intention of studying mesenchymal stromal cells, known as stem cells, allowed Venezuelan scientists to turn the study into two large protocols with the aim of saving the skin from severe burns, or to repair or replace a fractured bone.
New skin and follicles
The cell therapy protocols investigated and developed by the Ivic are applied in the burn units of hospitals such as the trauma unit of the Coromoto hospital in Maracaibo, in the state of Zulia; the Domingo Luciani hospital, in El Llanito, Caracas, and recently at the Niños Jesús pediatric hospital in Yaracuy.
For skin regeneration therapy, stem cells are responsible for repairing and regenerating an area that has suffered deep burns of II and III degree; and in chronic ulcers that do not respond to previous treatments. "All of this is possible thanks to basic research that is done in the laboratory," Wittig said.
For her part, Dr. Gissel Ramos, a UCV graduate biologist and current postdoctoral fellow at the Laboratory of Cellular and Molecular Pathology at the Ivic Center for Experimental Medicine, highlighted the importance of relating basic research to clinical application in this type of therapy, since everything that is taken to a patient must be evaluated in studies demonstrating its effectiveness.
For this reason, in the Skin Stem Cell Biology project, different therapeutic strategies are evaluated by carrying out experimental protocols, such as wound closure and the formation of a new epithelium in the injured area, to achieve complete tissue repair and regeneration.
“In the case of skin regeneration, the novel aspect is that we do not use autologous stem cells, but cells from healthy donors, because it allows us to have the cells ready to go to the patient in a week; and give a quick response ”, he added.
Among the evaluations are the isolation of stem cells that participate in the process of repair and regeneration of cutaneous wounds, important for the maintenance of this organ. Likewise, the formation of new hair follicles or hairs develops; and sebaceous glands that are important components of the skin and participate in the repair and renewal of wounds in areas of injury, he said.
Wittig specified that bone regeneration is applied specifically in patients who have suffered trauma or fractures located mainly in leg bones such as the femur, tibia or the arm bone, humerus, which after using traditional methods of treatment such as operations have no results favorable and resort, as a last option, to amputation.
“In these patients we have used bone regeneration therapy with excellent results. In 2016 we applied it in conjunction with the Faculty of Dentistry of the Central University of Venezuela, to regenerate bone in the mouth in more than 30 patients with periodontal disease ”, he said.
He added that in current times bone regeneration has taken place in 27 patients, of which 21 are adults and 6 are children. Of the group of mourners, 18 have passed the study, 11 were completely cured, 5 are in evolution and 2 did not achieve regeneration.
The results of the experiments carried out at the basic research level, from the Ivic, have been published in important international journals that give them validity to reach clinical application. Among them, Bioscience Report, with articles of basic research results and International Journal of Dermatology, with article of results of patients with burns.
This allows us to demonstrate to the scientific world that high quality research work is carried out in our country, both researchers assured.
Furthermore, “once the basic evaluation phase is passed before going to the patients, we submit everything to the consideration of the Bioethics Committee of the participating institutions. For this reason, they are completely safe protocols ”, emphasized the specialist Wittig.
The researchers reported that for a patient the cost of these implants is around the international part between $ 1.000. "It is expensive but on the other hand there is how much it means for the State to keep a patient in a burn unit," they argued.
Regarding the studies from the laboratory, Ramos explained that for basic research and its development that involves years of work, around $ 80.000 to $ 100.000 are used.
“Because they are experimental clinical protocols, they are free for patients. They are expensive treatments and the only way to do them is with the contributions we receive from the Ministry of Science and Technology, through the National Fund for Science, Technology and Innovation (Fonacit) and private institutions that are necessary to work, "he explained.
Finally, they shared that although at the present time the most advanced studies are projected in the isolation of skin stem cells and the evaluation of new hair follicles, in the laboratories they are waiting for the reagents and equipment necessary to continue developing the protocols.
In the same way, he highlighted the human resource of medical material used for the application of the procedures in the participating patients, among them the plastic surgeons, who are in charge of clinically applying the protocols in the hospital centers of the country, stand out.