Stem Cells in the News - March 2018

Monday, March 05, 2018 - 08:20
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.

Drug Target Review

A recent study in mice from Stanford University suggests that induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) could potentially be used to train the immune systems to attack and even prevent tumors. This proposed iPSC cancer vaccine would contain modified iPSCs to ‘prime’ the immune system to attack any tumors that should ever develop. This study has shown good results in a small subset of mice, and researchers are moving along to larger group studies in the future.

UC Davis

Scientists at the University of California Davis have developed a new culture system that efficiently derives embryonic stem cells (ESCs) from cows. This breakthrough offers a different, perhaps better, model for human stem cell therapies, but also provide an agricultural benefit of in vitro breeding of cows to select for genetically superior offspring.


A new technology out of Cedars-Sinai in Boston could make finding drug treatments for Crohn’s disease patients significantly easier. The Intestine-Chip is a platform to test treatment options for a patient, without the patient. A biopsy of diseased tissue is transferred onto the chip and a mini-intestine develops, unique to the patient. The physician can then directly apply different drug treatments to see how the specific patient would respond. This technology would streamline personalized medicine for Crohn’s patients. Looking for an open drug discovery and toxicology screening system in vitro? See how MimEX™ Tissue Model Systems could help your discovery!


Researchers from Stanford University have developed a sheep-human hybrid by merging a sheep embryo with human stem cells. The goal is to determine if human organs can be grown in sheep to resolve the gap in the transplant and supply of donor organs. Sheep organs are of a similar size to human organs, and could be a better model than pigs, with which chimeras have previously been developed. Although hybrids and chimeras are still controversial, this could open a new option for those on wait lists for organ transplants.

The Johns Hopkins News-Letter

Researchers at the Gladstone Institute have published a method for efficient reprogramming of adult skin cells to iPSCs using CRISPR-Cas9 technology. Interestingly, the team found that targeting a specific location of the genome resulted in a chain reaction that would fully reprogram the cell. This adds another reprogramming option for stem cell researchers to consider in their use of these cells.


Researchers at Texas A&M and Celltex Therapeutics have joined forces in an aggressive collaborative effort to develop a stem cell-derived therapy for Alzheimer’s within three years. Their technology uses exosomes from mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) as a delivery method for drugs to treat damaged brain regions or halt progression of disease at a molecular level. The hope is that use of “cell-free” exosomes from these MSCs would side step the regulatory challenges of many other stem cell therapies.

Business Insider

Cellularity, an initiative from CellGene built around the therapeutic use of placental stem cells, is taking off in New Jersey. Placental stem cells have the advantage of being abundant, readily available, and bypass the traditional ethical controversy of embryonic stem cells. The CEO and partners of Cellularity are looking to use these cells in therapies to treat cancers and extend life expectancy in the US.


Scientists at UCLA have discovered a gene that plays an important role in proper blood cell development and the emergence of blood disorders, such as leukemia and anemia. This gene, Pi4ka, is a novel gene discovery in this study and the research team have linked mutations in this gene to the emergence of cancers. Their work has unveiled a potential new target for therapies treating blood cancers and other disorders.

Stanford News

Dr. Irving Weissman, a pioneer in hematology and stem cell research, has received several awards in 2017 for his contributions to the field. His work isolating hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) from mice and humans has led to major advancements in the study of blood disorders. He plans to use the funds to study mutations in HSCs and cancer stem cells (CSCs) to study the development of brain cancers in mice. His awards include the Donald Metcalf Award, the National Cancer Institute Outstanding Investigator Award, the Karl Landsteiner Award, and the Helmhotz International Fellow Award. Congratulations to him!


Researchers at Boston Children’s Hospital have used iPSC-derived Purkinje cells from patients with tuberous sclerosis complex (TSC) to study the development of autism-spectrum disorders (ASD). The team used patient blood or skin cells to create the iPSCs and then studied the differentiation steps to see when and where these cells start demonstrating abnormalities in the cerebellum. They found that several pathways (including mTOR) are affected in the abnormal samples. They hope their continued work will shed more light on the molecular development of ASD for better prevention and treatment options.

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