Stem cell therapy for the treatment of parasitic infections: is it far away?


Stem cell therapy is an interventional treatment that introduces new cells into damaged tissues, which help in treating many diseases and injuries. It has been proved that stem cell therapy is effective for the treatment of cancers, diabetes mellitus, Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, cardiovascular diseases, neurological disorders, and many other diseases. Recently, stem cell therapy has been introduced to treat parasitic infections. The culture supernatant of mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) is found to inhibit activation and proliferation of macrophages induced by the soluble egg antigen of Schistosoma japonicum, and MSC treatment relieves S. japonicum-induced liver injury and fibrosis in mouse models. In addition, transplantation of MSCs into naïve mice is able to confer host resistance against malaria, and MSCs are reported to play an important role in host protective immune responses against malaria by modulating regulatory T cells. In mouse models of Chagas disease, bone marrow mononuclear cell has been shown effective in reducing inflammation and fibrosis in mice infected with Trypanosoma cruzi, and transplantation of the bone marrow mononuclear cells prevents and reverses the right ventricular dilatation induced by T. cruzi infection in mice. Preliminary clinical trials demonstrate that transplantation of bone marrow derived-cells may become an important therapeutic modality in the management of end-stage heart diseases associated with Chagas disease. Based on these exciting results, it is considered by stating that it is firmly believed that, within the next few years, we will be able to find the best animal models and the appropriate stem cell type, stem cell number, injection route, and disease state that will result in possible benefits for the patients with parasitic infections, and stem cell therapy, although at an initial stage currently, will become a real therapeutic option for parasitic diseases.

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This study received financial supports from the National Science and Technology Pillar Program of China (grant no. 2009BAI78B06) and Jiangsu Provincial Government Overseas Scholarship.

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Correspondence to Yong-Jun Rui or Wei Wang.

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Zhang, Y., Mi, J., Rui, Y. et al. Stem cell therapy for the treatment of parasitic infections: is it far away?. Parasitol Res 113, 607–612 (2014) doi:10.1007/s00436-013-3689-4

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  • Malaria
  • Schistosomiasis
  • Stem Cell Therapy
  • Praziquantel
  • Bone Marrow Mononuclear Cell