Stem Cells in the News - February 2019

Monday, February 04, 2019 - 10:44 Cells in the News

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.

Drug Target Review

Researchers from Spain have used a novel hydrogel-based encapsulation technology to develop stem cell therapies for stroke using a mouse model. They observed that encapsulated stem cells delivered to mice improved cell survival following stroke. In addition, improved tissue repair and preservation were observed. This hydrogel-based stem cell delivery method could be applied to treat damaged brain tissue in other conditions such as Alzheimer’s Disease, Parkinson’s Disease, and brain trauma.

Fate Therapeutics

Fate Therapeutics was authorized the first Investigational New Drug (IND) for an immune cell therapy derived from induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC). Their product, FT500, is an allogeneic iPSC-derived natural killer (NK) cell therapy for the treatment of cancer. By using iPSCs as starting material, Fate Therapeutics can manufacture NK cells in a scalable and cost-effective manner to offer a cell therapy product that circumvents current challenges that personalized, patient-derived autologous therapies must overcome.


A recent study published in Cell Stem Cell showed that induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC)-derived thymic organoids can provide a continual source of T cell production in vitro. This research, performed in the lab of Dr. Gay Crooks at the University of California – Los Angeles (UCLA), details a new approach for T cell production. This new technology has the potential to help advance immuno-oncology therapies for cancer by expediting the in vitro production of tumor-killing T cells.

Nature News

Southern University of Science and Technology in Shenzhen, China, has announced the firing of He Jiankui, the scientist who produced the world’s first gene-edited babies. He announced in late 2018 that he had successfully gene-edited human embryos to make them HIV-resistant, using Crispr-Cas9 to disable the CCR5 gene. The investigative report issued indicated that He acted of his own volition and in violation of national regulations that limit the pursuit of HIV-infected individuals for assisted reproduction.

Stem Cell Reports

Stem Cell Core Facilities at Columbia University and Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia have published research detailing methods establishing stem cell lines from patients with genetic mutations resulting in Ocular albinism type 1 and Spinocerebellar Ataxia Type 2, respectively. These two studies, published in Stem Cell Reports, validated the pluripotency of their newly-derived stem cell lines using the Human Pluripotent Stem Cell Functional Identification Kit from R&D Systems. These publications continue to progress the standardization for the derivation of patient-derived pluripotent stem cell lines for the study of human disease.

Technology Networks

Researchers from Keio University School of Medicine in Tokyo, Japan, serendipitously discovered that adipose stem cells could be used to derive platelets. Initial studies trying to coax induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) to differentiate into platelets led to the discovery that the control cells, adipose stem cells, were actually better at producing the desired platelet population. The detailed protocol produces platelets from adipose stem cells in 12 days. Currently adipose stem cells are more difficult to isolate than working with iPSCs. This model, however, has the potential to provide an allogeneic platelet therapy that could address supply shortcomings for donated plasma-derived platelets.

GEN News

A recent study in Cell Stem Cell reported that intestinal transplant tissue harbors a population of donor hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs). According to researchers at Columbia University’s Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons, these HSCs become educated by the recipient and help to promote engraftment tolerance. Intestine transplantation is often the last resort of therapy for Crohn’s disease patients, but can be confounded by host-rejection. These findings suggest a new avenue of research and therapy that circumvent the current engraftment challenges of intestinal tissue.

Wisconsin State Journal

In a joint effort between the University of Wisconsin at Madison and Cynata Therapeutics, the first induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) therapy developed out of UW – Madison has released results of their Phase 1 clinical trial for graft versus host diseases (GVHD). The therapy utilizes iPSCs to provide a steady supply of mesenchymal stem cells to help modulate the patient immune system and prevent symptoms of GVHD after transplantation. The promising results of this Phase 1 trial have motivated the expanded therapeutic application of this technology.


Currently there are cellular therapies for multiple sclerosis (MS) or other neurological diseases that are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Israel-based BrainStorm Therapeutics announced that the FDA has approved their stem cell therapy for the treatment of progressive MS. They expect to begin Phase 2 trials in the United States in early 2019.

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