Equine stem cells show ability to fight bacteria

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Mesenchymal stem cells from horses produce molecules that can fight bacterial infection, raising the possibility that they could be used as an alternative to antibiotics.

Bacterial resistance to antibiotics has become a major health burden, both in humans and animals. There is an urgent need to find alternatives to antibiotics.

Equine mesenchymal stem/stromal cells, or MSCs, are widely used for the treatment of musculoskeletal injuries.

There is significant interest in expanding their application to non-orthopedic conditions.

Scientists at the Roslin Institute, an animal sciences research facility which is part of the University of Edinburgh, set about examining the antibacterial and immunological properties of MSCs.

MSCs, which can differentiate into a variety of cell types, are known to possess antibacterial properties which may be useful for combating infection. However, comparative studies using MSCs from different parts of the horse have not been conducted.

For their research, the study team took MSCs from the bone marrow, the womb lining and fat, and monitored their effects on Escherichia coli. The cells worked against the E. coli, with those from the womb and fat proving more effective than those taken from the bone marrow.

The study showed that equine MSCs naturally produced molecules that can fight bacterial infection.

They observed that MSCs may be able to fight infection in two different ways, by acting directly on bacteria and by regulating the activity of immune cells involved in the natural body defence against microbial infection.

The researchers described MSCs from the womb lining ‒ the endometrium ‒ as being particularly promising for antibacterial clinical applications in horses and likely in other species.

MSCs from bone marrow or fat have been used for more than a decade for clinical tissue regeneration in animals, assuring their safe use as potential clinical antimicrobials in the future.

“This study shows that equine MSCs may act to defend the body against bacterial infection,” said Dr Cristina Esteves, who led the study.

“We’re excited about these results as MSCs could prove useful against antimicrobial resistance and be used as an alternative to antibiotics.”

The research was supported by Britain’s Horserace Betting Levy Board and Petplan Charitable Trust grants awarded to Dr Cristina Esteves and Dr Xavier Donadeu.

The results of their research have been published in the journal Stem Cells and Development.

Comparison of Antibacterial and Immunological Properties of Mesenchymal Stem/Stromal Cells from Equine Bone Marrow, Endometrium, and Adipose Tissue.
Cortés-Araya Y, Amilon K, Rink BE, Black G, Lisowski Z, Donadeu FX, Esteves CL.
Stem Cells Dev. 2018 Sep 6. doi: 10.1089/scd.2017.0241

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