Stem Cells in the News - July 2017
Thursday, July 06, 2017 - 13:05
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 at Weill Cornell recently published in Nature that they have found a way to reliably and efficiently convert vascular endothelium cells to Hematopoietic Stem Cells (HSCs). In mice, these HSCs are fully functional and can supply them with healthy blood cells for a lifetime This finding could help answer a huge question in regenerative medicine: how do stem cells constantly replenish their supply? If this method can be scaled up and moved to human trials, it could provide new ways to treat and cure blood disorders, such as leukemia and sickle cell anemia.
The Korean Biotech Company, Nature Cell, has announced that their Stem cell-based Alzheimer’s treatment is going to market in Japan this fall as a clinical trial. AstroStem is a therapeutic agent using adult stem cells isolated from adipose tissues from the patient and delivered intravenously back to the patient in repeated doses. The treatment is already approved for Rheumatoid Arthritis in Japan, and the company, along with their Japanese counterpart, R-Japan, expect approval to recruit for trials by late August.
Sweden has launched a government initiative to develop a new Center for Advanced Medical Products (CAMP) over the next 8 years. Their goal is to bring together industry research and academic labs under one roof to stimulate collaboration and innovation for cell and gene therapies that utilize stem cell technologies.
Dr. Hans Keirstead, a Professor at University of California, Irvine, has entered into a new kind of challenge, and this one is not for research grant money. Dr. Keirstad is running for for a seat in congress! Dr. Keirstead’s career has straddled the line between academic research and biotech, starting several biotech companies of his own, and he believes that Washington is in need of more scientists representing the US government. His main platform? Medical breakthroughs and advancement are not at odds with economic development. Look for him on the ballot in the 2018 election!
A team of researchers at The Monell Center, in Philadelphia, PA, have found that a progenitor cell in the tongue gives rise to the 3 cell types that compose the mature taste buds. The scientists grew the progenitor cells into organoids to study gene expression during taste cell generation. The team believes that they can use this information to drive specific maturation of these cells to influence and encourage healthier eating.
Scientists at the Hubei University of Medicine in China have published findings demonstrating the role autophagy plays in development and growth of cervical cancer. Autophagy markers, Beclin 1 and LC3B, are expressed higher in tumorsphere cells associated with cervical cancers and within cervical cancer stem cells. The researchers concluded that when expressed in cancer stem cells, these autophagy genes promote expression of proteins that facilitate their maintenance withina the tumor.
Out of the 21st Century Cures Act, enacted by former President Barack Obama, there is a provision that allows for the acceleration in the development and approval of certain Cell-based Therapies. This designation is called RMAT, or Regenerative Medicine Advanced Therapy designation. This allows the FDA to essentially assign a priority to therapies, devices, and drugs that show promise which push the progress of regenerative medicine in the United States, potentially leading to better solutions to chronic diseases, and encourage the investigation to solve disease in the US.
Researchers from the University College, London have published a review of how stem cell models have contributed to progress in the study of Alzheimer’s Disease. This review also discusses the ongoing challenges and potential opportunities for new technologies in stem cell modeling to solve the current issues researchers are facing studying such a detrimental disease.
The first platform to model colon cancer in a dish has been developed by researchers at Weill Cornell. The team of researchers derive the colon cancer organoids from stem cells in a dish, which removes the challenges of modelling the disease in a mouse model. This also provides an easily accessible way to test drugs, such as XAV939 and rapamycin, as treatments for patient-specific types of colon cancer. Not only is this a new platform to study drugs in cancers, it is a new opportunity for personalized medicine.
A remarkable story out of China where one man went with undiagnosed Hirschsprung’s disease for over 22 years. Hirschsprung’s is a genetic condition in which your colon never develops the nerve cells to provide the bowel contractions and relaxations necessary for natural bowel movements. This man likely developed this condition at birth, but at age 22, had a massive blockage that doctors had to surgically remove and it weighed over 29 pounds! The man has elected to remain anonymous, but we can bet he is feeling much better, and now with his diagnosis, will be able to avoid this from happening again!
Scientists at McMaster University in Ontario, Canada have uncovered a unique protein, Sam68, that is expressed in cancer stem cells and can be exploited by certain drugs to kill cancer stem cells. This information could be used to create more targeted and effective therapies using current drug options. The team worked backwards to determine different ways cancer stem cells can be killed in blood cancers, colon cancer, and prostate cancers.
Researchers at Vanderbilt University have drawn a connection between Mesenchymal Progenitor Cells (MPCs) and respiratory disease. The team found that these MPCs develop an adaptive structure around damaged tissue in the lungs of mice with pulmonary fibrosis. The team does not know if these adaptive structures are helpful to repair damage, or contribute to the damage in Pulmonary Fibrosis, but they have analyzed the gene expression in these MPCs and have identified certain biomarkers that could be used to detect pulmonary disease earlier.