Health Scan: Stem cells can become tendons [pg.7]

If you have worn out the connective tissue in your legs due to overweight or overexertion at sports, Hebrew University researchers may eventually offer you hope. They have found that adult stem cells can be used to make new tendon or ligament tissue. Injuries of the tendons and ligaments present a major challenge to orthopedic medicine. In the US alone, in any one year at least 200,000 patients undergo tendon or ligament repair. Moreover, the intervertebral disc, which is composed in part of tendon-like tissue, tends to degenerate with age, leading to the common phenomenon of low-back pain. Current therapeutic options are aimed at repairing torn ligaments and tendons using tissue grafting and synthetic prostheses, but none of these alternatives has provided a successful long-term solution. A novel approach for tendon regeneration is reported in the April issue of the Journal of Clinical Investigation. Researchers Prof. Dan Gazit and colleagues at the Faculty of Dental Medicine's skeletal biotechnology laboratory engineered mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs), which lie in the bone marrow and fat tissues, to express a protein called Smad8 and another called BMP2. When the researchers implanted these cells into the torn Achilles tendons of rats, they found that the cells not only survived, but also were recruited to the site of injury and were able to repair the tendon. The cells changed their appearance to look more like tendon cells (tenocytes), and significantly increased production of collagen - a protein critical for creating strong yet flexible tendons and ligaments. Tendon tissue repair was detected using a special type of imaging known as proton DQF MRI - developed by Tel Aviv University Prof. Gil Navon - which recognizes differences among collagen-containing tissue such as tendon, bone, skin and muscle. The authors note that BMP and Smad proteins are involved in other tissues such as nerve and liver, suggesting that this technology may be helpful for other degenerative diseases. In an accompanying commentary in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, Dwight Towler and Richard Gelberman from the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Missouri, write, "Given our limited understanding of how MSCs become tenocytes, the recent progress demonstrated in these studies is quite remarkable and may be potentially useful in cell-based therapeutic approaches to musculoskeletal injuries." The study was supported by GENOSTEM, an integrated project of the European Union for the engineering of mesenchymal stem cells in connective tissue disorders. RED WINE FOR GUM DISEASE? Researchers are finding that components found in red wine can help prevent and treat inflammatory periodontal disease, a progressive infectious disorder affecting the gums and bone that surround and support teeth, often causing tooth movement and leading to tooth loss. In recent years, fresh fruits and yellow-green vegetables and beverages, particularly green tea and red wine, have been reported to reduce human cancer and mortality. The potential health benefits of those products are attributed to a broad range of compounds called polyphenols. Now scientists from Lavel University in Quebec have reported on their study to investigate the role of polyphenols, including those from red wine, in scavenging free radicals released by immune cells stimulated with components of bacteria causing periodontal diseases. Addressing the 35th Annual Meeting of the American Association for Dental Research, they explained that because free radicals are generated by immune cells during periodontitis, it is critical to keep them at low levels to maintain healthy gums. Their results indicated that red wine polyphenols significantly modulate several inflammatory components released by macrophages (a population of host immune cells) in response to bacterial stimuli. These antioxidant properties of red wine polyphenols could be useful in the prevention and treatment of inflammatory periodontal diseases as well as other disorders involving free radicals, they suggested. HOW TO BREATHE EASY WHILE DINING If you want to breathe easily when you go out and eat, take a look at the new database of smoke-free Israeli cafes, restaurants and pubs. The Israel Cancer Association (ICA) has joined forces with the Walla portal on the Internet and the Web site to provide an updated list of such establishments. The database was initiated by the ICA after it received many complaints from individuals about the failure of no-smoking laws to be observed and enforced. Owners of no-smoking food establishments and good citizens can inform the database about them by sending an e-mail to or calling (03) 732-2780. Unfortunately, the site is only in Hebrew. ICA information chief Nava Inbar commented that "the time has come for cafe and restaurant owners to know that defining a 'smoking corner' is illegal in Israel, and from a health standpoint, it's like defining a 'urination corner' in a swimming pool. Whichever way you look at it, people will always be harmed. Smoking is allowed in eating places only if it is restricted to completely separate, closed and ventilated rooms whose space is less than 25% of the eating place."