Stem Cells in the News - December 2018
Friday, November 30, 2018 - 11:01
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.
With promising results of utilizing mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) in wound healing, plastic and reconstructive surgeons are looking closer at the potential use of CRISPR-modified MSCs to aid in faster tissue regeneration for craniofacial and cosmetic procedures including cleft palates, severe scars and burns, and even lost limbs and extremities. In a recent article, clinical researchers and physicians review the potential of stem cell therapies to support this application and discuss considerations as this field moves forward. Challenges at the top of mind? Regulation and costs.
The US National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) halted a clinical trial that sought to utilize cardiac stem cells to mitigate heart failure. This stems from the retraction of several cardiac stem cell papers earlier this year, which the trial had cited as preclinical evidence. The NHLBI took a cautious stance and stopped the trial citing that while the trial itself did not show any compromise to patient safety, the preclinical data is no longer an acceptable foundation for the study to continue. This underscores the important role preclinical data plays as the field of stem cell therapy continues to grow.
A new study from researchers at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) have defined a new approach to reduce and prevent Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) relapse. This novel cell combination drug delivery system fuses blood platelets and hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs). The HSCs provide a homing function, guiding the fused cells to the bone marrow, while the platelets are loaded with immune checkpoint inhibitors to neutralize cancer cells. The study has shown promising results in animal models and the research team hopes to continue to study this type of therapy in other leukemias as well as other diseases.
Researchers at Northwestern University have discovered an mRNA method to destroy cancer stem cells (CSCs) , which could provide an option for chemotherapy-resistant cancers in the future. The method utilizes CD95/Fas ligand (CD95L) mRNA as a target to trigger apoptosis in cancer stem cells. The research team has found that the mRNA of CD95L itself is enough to initiate CSC cell death and prevent cancer spread or relapse. While further study is needed, this could potentially provide a therapeutic option that is more targeted and doesn’t come with the systemic side effects observed in those undergoing chemotherapy.
A man in his 50s is the first recipient of induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC)-derived neural precursor cells to help alleviate symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease. The iPSCs were provided through a cell bank at Japan’s Kyoto University and differentiated ex vivo to dopamine-producing neural precursor cells. The clinicians and researchers successfully injected 2.4 million cells and have not observed any major adverse reactions or side effects. If his condition maintains or improves, they will plan to inject 2.4 million more precursor cells into his brain after 6 months.
The FDA has issued warning letters to two stem cell clinics in California and Florida after receiving complaints of false claims of efficacy and using cells and drugs in unapproved methods. For-profit stem cell clinics have been pervasive in the US over the past several years, with almost all of them operating without approval from the FDA and without any animal or human study data to support the safety or efficacy of their treatments. These warning letters are the FDAs most aggressive action to date, and advocates in the field hope they continue this crackdown nationally to protect both patients and the reputation of the field.
He Jiankui, a research scientist from Southern University of Science and Technology in Shenzhen, China has claimed to have used CRISPR to genetically modify the DNA of twin girls born earlier this month. He claims to have edited the CCR5 gene to turn it off in the embryos of the twin girls to give them genetic resistance to diseases such as HIV, smallpox, and cholera. While he has not released any scientific data supporting this claim, this announcement has already caused quite a stir in the scientific community raising both ethical and procedural questions that will need to be addressed as the potential of this technology is evaluated.
A promising cancer therapy developed by researchers at Boston Children’s Hospital to treat adenocarcinomas has been found to have the opposite effect on cancer stem cells (CSCs), causing them to behave more stem-like and cause aggressive advancement of the disease when observed in an animal model. The research team hypothesized that this was missed in cell line studies because CSCs are hard to identify and detect. This a major setback for a promising therapy, but researchers have already identified other, potentially better, enzyme targets that may not have the same CSC effects.
A team of researchers at the University College of London have implanted a lab-grown esophagus into the abdomen of mice to study the rate of vascularization and cell proliferation. The esophagus was developed from a rat collagen scaffold and seeded with human and mouse cells. Their study shows functional muscle contraction and vascularization in the mouse model, which are promising preclinical results as a potential treatment for babies born without sections of their esophagus, and possibly other epithelial tissues.
A new device developed at Tufts University has shown promise in the field of limb regeneration by inducing development and regeneration of African clawed frogs hind limbs following amputation. This device, a hydrogel-filled 3-D printed silicon bioreactor, is filled with progesterone and silk proteins. It is sutured onto the site immediately after amputation and removed 24 hours later. Their study results show a decrease in immune cell infiltration and visual reduction of scarring in the wound healing process. The research team hopes the data they have provides a proof of principal to further develop the device for other drug delivery applications and to continue to study wound healing applications in mammalian animal models.