It’s the first time this has happened in the past 50 years.
No, it wasn’t Paul McCartney performing ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ and ‘Love Me Do’ in concert (though that did finally happen after half a century of stubbornness).
The discovery is sound-related though: acoustic experts have created a new class of sound wave for the first time in over 50 years. These sound waves don’t have implications in music, but is making noise in stem cell therapy.
Researchers at RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia, pooled two different types of acoustic sound waves bulk waves and surface waves to create the crossbreed ‘surface reflected bulk waves’. This hybrid wave is powerful, but soft enough to be used in biomedical devices.
How does this affect stem cell research? The idea is to implement the waves in these devices to manipulate stem cells, which are extremely frail, without damaging or disrupting the integrity of the cells. This opens an array of possibilities in stem cell treatments.
At the moment, the team of scientists from RMIT are working on the application of these new sound waves in a revolutionary process called HYbriD Resonance Acoustics, or ‘HYDRA’.
Used in ‘nebulisers’ (a device that administers medication in the form of mist for inhalation), electrical charges through a piezoelectric chip converts electricity into mechanical vibrations, breaking down liquids into an easy-to-inhale mist. The liquid medication used in the biomedical device are described as ‘being yelled at’ by sound waves, causing it to vibrate and break down into vapour. This process can be applied to administer vaccines, medication, regenerative medicine, and even stem cells.
Lung diseases could be treated safely via surface reflected bulk waves by nebulising stem cells directly to a specific site in the lung, promoting repairs in damaged tissues. Until now, stem cells would be too fragile to be delivered in lung repair or restoration. Standard nebulisers have much lower frequency waves that heat up and destroy stem cells before they can be delivered. The new sound waves, in combination with HYDRA, allows the stem cells to remain intact and administered correctly to problem areas.
The scientists have described this as ‘a real game changer for stem cell treatment in the lungs’.
Surface reflected bulk waves and HYDRA technology have applications in battling respiratory diseases such as emphysema, tuberculosis and cystic fibrosis. Inoculations that stimulate immune responses in the lungs, say flu vaccines, can be administered as well. Much further down the line is the potential for diabetics to intake necessary, daily medications through this process rather than uncomfortable insulin shots.
While this is an exciting discovery in both medicine and stem cell research, clinical trials to deliver cells to the lungs is at minimum three to five years away.
Stem cell technology is advancing, with the potential to be delivered safely into delicate areas such as organs on the horizon. Luckily we already have the ability to inject regenerative medicine and deliver stem cells to injured musculoskeletal areas, which facilitate healing.