Stem Cells in the News - January 2019
Friday, January 04, 2019 - 08:25
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.
Scientists from the German Cancer Research Center have, for the first time, successfully directly reprogrammed human blood cells into neural progenitor cells in vitro. These cells express markers expected of cells in the embryonic development of the central nervous system. The research team also reports the full differentiation of these cells into neural crest cells and the potential for further CRISPR/Cas9 modifications to more quickly repair genetic defects over other induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC)-derived methods. The team acknowledges this will require much more preclinical data to support these cells’ therapeutic abilities before moving into human studies, but their initial findings are, nonetheless, exciting for the potential future of regenerative medicine. View products for direct reprogramming from Tocris.
Human Norovirus is a major infectious agent that is particularly dangerous to children and the elderly. Studying the virus in vitro has been difficult due to complicated tissue needs to host the virus. Researchers at Osaka University have published a method that utilizes induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSCs)-derived intestinal epithelial cells to provide a simple model for viral studies in vitro. The team of researchers hopes this method will help industry better evaluate drug and vaccine candidates and to gain an understanding of the immune response in the most vulnerable human populations and prevent deaths.
Researchers at Texas A&M University have demonstrated seizure suppression in a mouse model using iPSC-derived GABAergic progenitor cells. The researchers reported that seizures were reduced and both cognitive and mood functions were improved in treated animals. These findings hold promise for the 20-40% of epileptic patients who still suffer from seizures despite pharmaceutical treatments. The team of researchers plan to explore the safety and efficacy of this potential iPSC-therapy moving forward with more therapeutic studies.
Twelve patients have been hospitalized after receiving umbilical cord blood injections from the San Diego-based clinic, Genetech. All patients were found to have contracted serious E. coli infections requiring hospitalization and treatment for at least 30 days. The “therapy” the clinic claimed would help alleviate symptoms of various orthopedic complaints including degenerative joint diseases, back pain, and rotator-cuff tears. None of the clinic’s claims have preclinical data to support these claims. The FDA has issued a warning to the clinic and the CDC has opened an investigation into the practices of this clinic, but for-profit and direct-to-consumer clinics continue to pop up all over the United States. A cry for serious regulatory restrictions may be the only way to halt these unapproved therapies from continuing.
As of early December 2018, almost 300 different cell or gene therapies are in clinical development or awaiting review by the FDA. The spectrum of applications are vast, ranging from inherited blood disorders to cancer stem cell therapies. This is the first year the FDA is reporting on cell and gene therapies and it shows a shift away from pharmaceuticals and a new focus toward new treatment options for chronic and inherited diseases. Strikingly, over 100 of these therapies, including CAR-T treatments and RNAi drugs.
Scientists at the University of Colorado Cancer Study have unveiled a new avenue to target cancer stem cells (CSCs). While studying acute myeloid leukemia (AML), they found that the treatment-resistant CSCs rely heavily on amino acid uptake to persist. They were able to show an elevated level of catabolism and amino acid uptake in the CSC niche and, with inhibition of this amino acid uptake process in cell metabolism, they can effectively kill cancers in a mouse model. They also showed that utilizing amino acid uptake inhibitors caused the CSCs to switch to prefer a lipid metabolism. The complexity of CSCs continues to challenge researchers, but each discovery provides new channels of attack to prevent cancer recurrences and metastases.
Scientists at the University of Zurich have identified a key molecule that could address a plaguing issue of leukemia stem cell therapies. In their recently published study, they report the production of the cytokine GM-CSF is crucial to initiating? graft-versus-host (GVH) response. Modifying bone marrow donor cells to inhibit the ability of these cells to produce GM-CSF protect the recipient against GVH without neutralizing the anti-cancer effects of the transplanted cells. This study was initially conducted in a mouse model and the research team has been able to demonstrate similar promising results in human samples as well. The team is looking toward clinical trails in the next few years.
A new study from Kazan Federal University demonstrates a new therapy utilizing adipose-derived MSCs and a fibrin matrix to influence regeneration of motor function following spinal cord injury model in mice. The treatment has been most effective when administered in the subacute period of injury, which is a challenging timeline to accommodate using current reprogramming and cell enrichment technologies. The team is confident that the adipose source of the MSCs is the key to being able to obtain cells for this autologous treatment. The structure, consisting of the matrix and MSCs, was also found to reduce astroglial activation and the development of pathological cavities in the injury site. The research team hopes to take this into clinical trials after collecting additional preclinical data. View all products for extracellular matrices from R&D Systems.
Researchers at the Fred Hutchinson Research Center have published a study utilizing genetically-modified hematopoietic progenitor stem cells (HSCs) to deliver neutralizing effects to HIV-infected cells in a preclinical model. The research team modified CD34+ cells and infused them into immunodeficient mice and demonstrated engraftment up to 9 months later. These cells are more likely to migrate to tissues where the HIV virus persists in the quiescent state and where antibodies cannot infiltrate effectively. With continued preclinical success and clinical trial approval in the future, this new genetic engineering of HSCs may finally expand the treatment options for HIV patients.