Stem Cells in the News - June 2018

Thursday, May 31, 2018 - 08:14
Stem 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.


The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has accepted a novel gene-editing cell therapy for the treatment of sickle cell disease. This non-viral, zinc finger nuclease (ZFN) approach is the first gene edited therapy approved for this disease. Researchers from Bioverativ and Sangamo Therapeutics are thrilled by this approval and look forward to advancing into clinical trials.

John Innes Centre

Researchers at the John Innes Centre in Norwich, United Kingdom have discovered a link between a common gut toxin and Irritable Bowel Disease (IBD). While originally studying the toxin microcin B17 for new antibiotic discovery, the team observed that biproducts from the toxin trigger gut inflammation characteristic of IBD. This finding, recently published in Cell, defines a new class of environmental and microbial triggers of the disease and opens a new prospect for future therapies for IBD sufferers.

Science Translational Medicine

A recent study published in Science demonstrates successful syngeneic and allogeneic transplantation of iPSC-derived neural precursor cells (NPCs) into the spinal cords of pigs with only temporary immune suppression. Their findings show a good safety profile and long-term survival. These iPSC-derived neural precursor cells also showed consistent differentiation into neurons and glial cells and no tumor formations. This study shows iPSC-NPCs as a viable alternative source of cells for transplantation to alleviate spinal cord injury (SCI) and other traumas or diseases that affect the spinal cord. Need a reliable and efficient way to product NPCs from your iPSCs in vitro? Check out the StemXVivo® Neural Progenitor Differentiation Kit!

Epidermolysis Bullosa News

Bone marrow-derived mesenchymal stem cells (BM-MSCs) injections have been found to improve wound healing in patients with recessive dystrophic epidermolysis bullosa (RDEB), but the underlying mechanism is still unknown. In a recent study, researchers found that BM-MSCs produce extracellular vesicles that contain messenger RNA for Type VII Collagen. Transfer of BM-MSC extracellular vesicles loaded with Type VII Collagen mRNA was shown to be taken up by fibroblasts to increase Collagen protein, which is severely compromised in RDEB patients. This finding shows the therapeutic value of BM-MSC secretome and an option for new treatments in the future.

MIT News

Researchers at MIT have recently published a study demonstrating the effects of fasting on intestinal stem cells’ ability to regenerate. This study shows that 24 hour fasting periods in both young and old mice can lead to a higher regeneration rate of intestinal stem cells. Fasting induces a metabolic switch in stem cells, priming them for regeneration. Utilizing this pathway could provide faster recovery in aging patients with GI issues, those undergoing chemotherapy, and other therapeutic opportunities for gut diseases.

European Pharmaceutical Review

Acyclic retinoid, a derivative of Vitamin A, has recently been found to prevent tumor formation and growth in the most common form of liver cancer, hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). In a study that focused on liver cancer stem cells (CSCs), researchers found that expression of the gene MYCN was key to the recurrence and growth of the cancer. Dose-dependent exposure to acyclic retinoid resulted in the selective depletion of the MYCN-expressing CSCs, halting cancer progression in animal models. The team from the RIKEN Center for Integrative Medical Science looks forward to human clinical trials moving forward.


The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has announced a less arduous path to approval for certain gene therapies. Specifically, the FDA is focusing on gene therapies for hemophilia, which has few treatment options. This decision strives to support scientists bringing their potential therapies for hemophilia out of the research laboratory and into the clinical faster.

Medical News Today

Glioblastomas are difficult to treat for several reasons, including their growth-promoting glioma stem cells (GSCs). Researchers from Northwestern University have been closely studying these GSCs to find a way to halt their growth potential. They observed that GSCs produce a high level of the enzyme CDK5. Blocking activity of this enzyme inhibits the self-regenerating capabilities of these cells. Utilizing a CDK5 inhibitor, which can cross the blood brain barrier, the team has shown a large reduction in the regeneration of GSCs in animal models. This finding could lead to a new therapeutic path to prevent recurrence of glioblastomas in humans.


Organoid recipes and protocols are far from standardized and involve a lot of manual manipulation with current technology. However, a team of researchers at the University of Washington and the University of Michigan have teamed up to develop a robotic system that can reliably develop kidney organoids with little human intervention. Not only can the system produce thousands of organoids, it can also sort and rank them by quality. This is potentially a huge step in the development of 3-D culture systems. Interested in learning about the many benefits and challenges of 2-D and 3-D culture models? Download our eBook on the Evolution of Cell Culture Models today!


A recent review article looking at induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) and embryonic stem cell (ESC) studies since 2006 has shown that the age of iPSCs and ESCs does not affect their ability to functionally differentiate. This finding challenges the assumption that as cells age, they accumulate mutations and those mutations affect the ability of cells from older patients to produce functional iPSCs for therapeutic use. This review also validates the use of iPSCs over ESCs as a viable option for therapies.

The Scientist

The ‘Director’ cells in embryogenesis have been identified for the first time in a recent study published in Nature. Director cells dictate the timing and lineage fate of cells in the embryo. These cells are shown to be evolutionarily conserved from amphibians to humans. This discovery opens the potential for therapies to develop large quantities of lineages needed in patients with certain diseases.

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