U professorworks on new delivery method for stem cells

Professor William Frey and his colleagues are working on delivering stem cells to patients through the nose.

Katherine Lymn

A University of Minnesota professor has discovered that stem cells may be able to be inserted nasally, which would cause less side effects and cost less than implanting the cells through surgery. The professor, William Frey, has been at the University since 1974, and collaborated on the project with Lusine Danielyan of GermanyâÄôs University Hospital of Tuebingen . Frey said this method of stem cell insertion involves putting nasal drops into the nose. The cells are carried to the brain by the olfactory , or smell, system. Frey said he got the idea of applying stem cells through the nose from similar research done with AlzheimerâÄôs patients. In the research, AlzheimerâÄôs patients were given insulin nasally, which almost immediately improved their memory, attention and functioning, Frey said. The funding for the stem cell research came from both FreyâÄôs and DanielyanâÄôs laboratory funds; Frey said it would be hard to get outside funding for testing such an innovative theory; no University grants were involved. Frey said stem cell intranasal deliveryâÄôs benefits outweigh both the expensive hospital costs âÄî he expects this method to be ten times cheaper âÄî and infection risks of having the cells implanted surgically. âÄúItâÄôs like a night and day difference âĦ in terms of the advantages of this [method],âÄù Frey said. This method is âÄúextremely rapid,âÄù Frey said, as the cells can reach the brain in approximately ten minutes. Also, when injected nasally, the stem cells go directly to the brain through the olfactory nerves, and not by way of the bloodstream, where the drug would spread to other organs and possibly cause side effects. âÄúItâÄôs a way of reducing the risk of systemic exposure and unwanted side effects,âÄù Frey said, adding that the surgery method actually causes an inflammation that kills all but 5 percent of the implanted stem cells. Biochemistry senior Anya Dmytrenko , of the UniversityâÄôs Student Society for Stem Cell Research at the University of Minnesota (SSSCR) , felt the stem cell research is part of a larger issue. âÄúItâÄôs going to make progress I think âĦ as the community becomes more and more educated about the [uncontroversial side] âĦ of stem cells,âÄù Dmytrenko said. Public management senior and SSSCR founder Matt Hanzlik said this research is just one of many different stem cell techniques currently being researched. âÄúWe havenâÄôt come up with the sole winner, and I donâÄôt think there ever will be, but it just adds to the great repertoire of knowledge that we have,âÄù Hanzlik said. Frey and his colleagues are currently working on demonstrating intranasal stem cellsâÄô positive effects on rats with brain problems. The next phases involve toxicology testing and then actual human trials, Frey said. This phase is part of the process of getting Food and Drug Administration approval for the drug, which Frey estimates will take five to 10 years. Frey said he and his colleagues are also working on intranasal treatments for post-traumatic stress disorder. âÄúI think thereâÄôs a huge future in the use of this intranasal delivery method,âÄù Frey said. âÄúWhen you say you can put an entire cell in the nose and have it go to the brain, thatâÄôs really shocking.âÄù