Stem Cell Trafficking

Stem cells offer a versatile treatment for the repair of damaged tissue in many organs.

However, stem cell therapy is not targeted, and the cells often have trouble getting to the target site. The mechanical effects of focused ultrasound can stimulate the release of chemoattractant molecules as well as an increased expression of cellular adhesion molecules on endothelial cells, both of which improve the ability of stem cells to extravasate into the tissue1. Using focused ultrasound in combination with stem cell therapy could enable these cells to more specifically home to the damaged tissue.

Preclinical work has shown that focused ultrasound induced stem cell homing can be used to treat acute kidney injury2, however, there is a wide array of potential clinical applications for this mechanism. Stem cell therapy can be used in cardiovascular disorders (e.g. repair of cardiac muscle after a heart attack)3, neurodegenerative disorders (e.g. generation of new neurons in Parkinson’s disease)4, liver disease5, osteoarthritis6, and much more. In each of these cases focused ultrasound may be able to play a role in increasing the efficacy of the treatment by enhancing stem cell homing to the target site.


Focused Ultrasound and Regenerative Medicine: Enhancing Homing and Retention of Stem Cells to Targeted Tissue by Joseph Frank, MD, National Institutes of Health


[1] Burks SR, Ziadloo A, Kim SJ, Nguyen BA, Frank JA. Noninvasive pulsed focused ultrasound allows spatiotemporal control of targeted homing for multiple stem cell types in murine skeletal muscle and the magnitude of cell homing can be increased through repeated applications. Stem Cells. 2013;31.

[2] Burks SR, Nguyen BA, Tebebi PA, Kim SJ, Bresler MN, Ziadloo A, et al. Pulsed focused ultrasound pretreatment improves mesenchymal stromal cell efficacy in preventing and rescuing established acute kidney injury in mice. Stem Cells. 2015;33:1241–53.

[3] Segers VFM, Lee RT. Stem-cell therapy for cardiac disease. Nature. 2008;451:937–42.

[4] Lindvall O, Kokaia Z, Martinez-Serrano A. Stem cell therapy for human neurodegenerative disorders–how to make it work. Publ. Online 01 July 2004 Doi101038nm1064. 2004;10:S42–50.

[5] Kuo TK, Hung S, Chuang C, Chen C, Shih YV, Fang SY, et al. Stem Cell Therapy for Liver Disease: Parameters Governing the Success of Using Bone Marrow Mesenchymal Stem Cells. Gastroenterology. 2008;134:2111–21.e3.

[6] Murphy JM, Fink DJ, Hunziker EB, Barry FP. Stem cell therapy in a caprine model of osteoarthritis. Arthritis Rheum. 2003;48:3464–74.

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