An experimental drug has opened doors in regenerative medicine by helping laboratory mice regrow damaged liver, colon and bone marrow tissue, revealed a study led by researchers at Case Western Reserve and UT Southwestern Medical Center. If this therapy is found to work in humans, scientists say it might save the lives of people who are critically ill with colon or liver disease and possibly some cancers. However, experts cautioned that their research is at a very early stage, and more work is needed before it can be tested in humans.
Co-author Sanford Markowitz, professor of cancer genetics at Case Western Reserve's School of Medicine, said, "We are very excited. We have developed a drug that acts like a vitamin for tissue stem cells, stimulating their ability to repair tissues more quickly. The drug heals damage in multiple tissues, which suggests to us that it may have applications in treating many diseases."
This experimental drug is now known only as SW033291. It can shut down the activity of a gene product found in all humans, 15-hydroxyprostaglandin dehydrogenase (15-PGDH), that in turn allows room for more prostaglandin E2, which encourages many types of tissue stem cells to grow and promotes healing.
Researchers performed a series of experiments, showing that SW033291 could inactivate 15-PGDH in a test tube, inside a cell, and when injected into mice. Some lab animals were given lethal doses of radiation and then a partial bone marrow transplant. The study mice that received SW033291 survived, while the others died. Other studies showed that mice given SW033291 recovered normal blood counts six days faster than mice that did not get the treatment. The study said, "Mice with ulcerative colitis were given the treatment and it healed virtually all the ulcers in the animals' colons and prevented colitis symptoms. In mice where two-thirds of their livers had been removed surgically, SW033291 accelerated regrowth of new liver nearly twice as fast as normally happens without medication. The drug showed no adverse side effects."
The study is published in the Science.