Stem Cells in the News - August 2018
Friday, August 03, 2018 - 10:11
We have captured this month's most interesting, innovative, and maybe some of the strangest examples of stem cells in the news from around the world.
Researchers from Osaka University have recently published findings revealing the importance of SATB1 protein in the self-renewal and lymphocytic differentiation of hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs). Using genetically engineered mice, they were able to visualize the expression of this protein and monitor the ability of the cells to develop lymphocytic lineages as well as self-renewal. This finding further demystifies the mechanism of HSC differentiation and will be considered for future studies of diseases caused by immune system disorders.
Cancer treatment resistance is a confounding issue across many cancers, but what makes cancers so good at building resistance? Researchers at the University of Michigan think it is due to ability of cancer stem cells (CSCs) to change states as needed to avoid destruction. This plasticity allows them to persist in either a dormant or proliferative state, depending on the conditions. The team of researchers explored this by attacking metabolic pathways in cancer stem cells using a mouse model for breast cancer and have shown efficacy in destroying breast cancer stem cells. This finding underscores the importance of metabolism to CSC growth and proliferation.
University of Minnesota researchers have successfully isolated and expanded skeletal muscle stem cells from induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC)-derived teratomas. These isolated cells were also readily engrafted in a mouse model of muscular dystrophy, which resulted in improved survival. This new source of skeletal stem cells, recently published in Cell Stem Cell, shows potential for future therapeutic use and a readily available source of stem cells to treat other disease and disorders.
CIRM has unanimously approved two grants, both at the University of California, San Diego, for stem cell-based treatments of the heart and lungs. Over 1 million dollars has been awarded to a lab using genetically modified hematopoietic stem cells to treat a condition that is characterized by weakened heart muscle. The remaining $865,282 was awarded to a laboratory studying the use of mesenchymal stem cells extracellular vesicles (MSC-EVs) as a therapy for pulmonary fibrosis. Both research teams will strive to get usable therapies into the clinical space by the end of next year.
Researchers at Stanford University have uncovered the role of a protein known to be crucial for reprogramming mature cells to induced pluripotent stem cells. The protein of interest, NKX3.1, has previously been established in prostate development as well as tumor suppression, but the researchers have shown it to be essential in the reprogramming process – inhibition of this protein expression halts the reprogramming process all together. They also revealed that the expression of NKX3.1 can stimulate the mature cell to produce its own Oct-4 at sufficient levels for reprogramming to progress. This finding further uncovers the mysteries of cellular reprogramming and provide alternate options for researchers utilizing the Yamanaka Factors in the lab.
Scientists at Johns Hopkins have developed a method of microRNA delivery to the brain in a mouse model that specifically targets cancer stem cells (CSCs) in glioblastomas. These “MicroRNA Nano-Packets” can easily cross the blood brain barrier and are encased in a material used in dissolvable sutures while specifically targeting the genes HMGA1 and DNMT, both regulators of gene expression in cells. The research team has filed a patent on the design and packaging of these microRNAs and look to try in human trials in the next few years.
A recent study looking at the pre-clinical signs of cigarette smoke-induced pulmonary emphysema has shown that a hallmark of this disease is the suppression of the number and function of hematopoietic progenitor cells. The study sought to antagonize this observed suppression with the antagonist, AMD3100, in a mouse model. They found that the total number of hematopoietic progenitor cells increased and the clinical signs, such as lung volume and alveolar air space size, were markedly improved. This study shows promise for future therapeutic uses of AMD3100 in emphysema progression.
Some MSC therapies for tissue repair are severely limited due to poor cell survival and engraftment in vivo. A recent study from the University of California Davis explores the influence of preconditioning of MSCs with hypoxic conditions prior to spheroid formation and transplantation to determine if it improved cell viability when transferred to in vivo conditions. They found the hypoxia-treated cells were more resistant to apoptosis and had better differentiation to the osteogenic lineage for bone healing. This approach provides a simple solution to improve MSC therapies for clinical use in the future.
In this review of MSC therapies, researchers from several universities report on progress that has been made over the past 10 years. They discuss current challenges the field is facing while struggling to get preclinical and animal studies to translate into human in vivo studies that show similar success.
Researchers at Lund University have developed a fluorescent version of a molecule that inhibits cancer stem cells (CSCs), Salinomycin. They have been able to image the travel of this molecule into the CSCs and how it is processed by the cells. Interestingly, the molecule is taken up and transported to the endoplasmic reticulum and acts to transport certain ions that halt the cell growth and expansion. The insights from this imaging can help to influence future cancer drug development and new treatments to prevent cancer recurrence.