Many diseases are very complex, involving many biological pathways. It is very difficult to find a single drug with actions on enough pathways to slow or reverse many diseases. As an alternative there is excitement around using cells to treat disease. Cells can sense their environment and change their response to match.
Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) have performed well in many types of disease. I currently work in the Renal Diagnostics and Therapeutics Unit at NIDDK. Before I joined the group they found MSCs were beneficial in sepsis. Treatment had to be soon after injury limiting the clinical usefulness. One potential reason for this was most MSCs got stuck in the lungs. If more cells got to the kidneys they might work better. At the time it was not known how to guide more cells to the kidneys.
Recently, we have worked with Scott Burks and Joe Frank from the Clinical Center at NIH. They are able to use pulsed focused ultrasound to alter tissues to recruit more MSCs. We tested pulsed focused ultrasound in a cisplatin model. Cisplatin is a treatment for some types of cancer but often causes kidney injury. Pulsed focused ultrasound guided MSC treatment reduced damage from cisplatin.