Stem Cells in the News - July 2018
Monday, July 02, 2018 - 14:03
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.
A whistleblower in the misconduct case at the Karolinska Institute is the latest to be found guilty of providing misleading information, data fabrication, and lack of ethical approvals in research conducted by the lab of thoracic surgeon, Paolo Macchiarini. The research in question centered on bioengineered windpipes from patient stem cells. Transplantation of these cells resulted in several patient deaths. Six other co-authors, including the principal investigator, have been found guilty and the six publications have been retracted.
Chinese researchers have demonstrated embryonic stem cells (ESCs) show therapeutic benefit in monkeys with Parkinson’s-like disease. In a 2-year safety and efficacy study, the team of researchers produced cGMP grade dopaminergic neurons from clinical grade human ESCs and showed that the transplanted dopaminergic neurons did not exhibit excessive growth or tumor formation. They also demonstrated the transplanted cells further matured in vivo and did not stimulate any immune rejection. This study gives hope to further develop and discover other ESC-therapies to treat neurodegenerative diseases.
Swiss researchers at the University of Basal have, for the first time, successfully mimicked the conditions of bone marrow outside the body. By culturing hematopoietic stem cells (HSC) and mesenchymal stem cells (MSC) on a 3-D scaffold system in a bioreactor, they were able to observe HSC replication and differentiation into the various types of blood cells. This ability to study and grow bone marrow cells outside the body could lead to better treatment options for diseases such as leukemia.
A recently discovered colonic mesenchymal stem cell type, identified by expression of GLI-1, has been found to play a role in repairing the intestinal epithelium through secretion of Wnt. The dysregulation of Wnt in these cells can result in severe consequences. Epithelial stem cells respond to overexpression of Wnt from GLI-1 MSCs by aggressively forming polyps and eventually cancer. Too little Wnt causes the intestinal epithelium to perish. Researchers are now studying GLI-1 MSCs and their Wnt secretion levels to better understand intestinal disease and holds the potential for therapeutic manipulation in the future.
The standard of care for acute myeloid leukemia (AML) has not changed since the 1960’s. Researchers at the University of Colorado Cancer Center are looking to change that by targeting a key attribute of leukemic stem cells (LSCs), mitophagy. They have found that LSCs survival requires mitophagy, which is controlled by AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK). Blocking the expression of AMPK resulted in the death of LSCs by preventing mitophagy. They believe this method, only demonstrated in mice so far, could have huge impacts on patient outcomes with AML and they hope to continue evaluation of therapy options targeting AMPK.
The Annual ISSCR meeting just concluded in Melbourne, Australia. Did you miss out on all the stem cell research happening Down Under? We have you covered with a 5-minute summary of the major scientific themes of the meeting. Read more about what you may have missed on our blog!
A newly discovered cellular “umbrella” in some fish has been found to protect blood stem cells from UV damage of the sun. Stem cells in fish reside in the kidney instead of a bone-protected marrow as in humans. Therefore some species of fish and frogs have developed a patch of melanocytes just above their kidneys to aid in protection from UV light. This discovery is not only an interesting example of adaptation and evolution, but it could have implications for human disease and finding alternate methods for protecting bone marrow from damage.
When bone regeneration is needed, MSCs must choose the between direct bone formation or cartilage matrix formation that will later become bone . Researchers at the University of Freiburg, have discovered that the overexpression of extracellular calcium sensing receptor (CaSR) forces MSCs to form bone directly as opposed to the via cartilage step. Conversely, turning CaSR off can completely halt bone formation in vivo. Finding mechanisms around this master control of CaSR could help outcomes for bone-related disease, such as osteoporosis.
Researchers at American University have discovered a new method for how mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) control the generation of fat cells in the human body. These cells have been found to be neither replicating or differentiating, but have agene expression profile like active fat cells. Their research suggests that these cells may hold the key to maintaining healthy fat levels in the body and promoting a healthy metabolic rate. More investigation into these cells is needed, but it is a step toward understanding the complexities of metabolism.
With the help of CRISPR, researchers at the University of California San Diego have been able to culture ‘minibrains’ engineered to reflect the DNA of our Neanderthal ancestors. For the first time, these researchers can study the molecular characteristics of Neanderthal cortical tissue, with the hope of expanding the protocol to study the other parts of the brain in the future.