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Body's stem cells could be used to treat bacterial infection

Scientists found that Mesenchymal Stem Cells from horses naturally produce molecules that can fight bacterial infection.

Horses in a field.

Bacterial resistance to antibiotics has become a major health burden, both in humans and animals, and there is an urgent need to find alternative strategies to antibiotics to address this serious problem.

A study by scientists at The Roslin Institute has investigated mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs). These are cells that can differentiate into a variety of cell types and are present both in humans and animals.

The study showed that equine MSCs naturally produce molecules that can fight bacterial infection. The scientists 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 team compared MSCs obtained from different body tissues. Their results identified the endometrium ‒ the tissue lining the inner cavity of the uterus ‒ as a particularly promising novel source of MSCs for antibacterial clinical applications in horses and likely in other species.

MSCs from bone marrow or adipose tissue 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. We’re excited about these results as MSCs could prove useful against antimicrobial resistance and be used as an alternative to antibiotics.

Dr Cristina Estevesled the study at The Roslin Institute.

This work has been supported by Horserace Betting Levy Board and Petplan Charitable Trust grants awarded to Dr Cristina Esteves and Dr Xavier Donadeu. The results are published in the journal "Stem Cells and Development".

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