Stem Cells in the News - May 2018
Thursday, April 26, 2018 - 16:26
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 team of scientists at the University of Cambridge have identified a new type of quiescent stem cell in the brain that has a high potential to repair the brain after damage. These cells, called “G2 quiescent stem cells,” show a higher regenerative potential than other quiescent stem cells in the brain. The researchers have demonstrated these cells also ‘wake-up’ easily and can differentiate into any cell type in the brain, including neurons and glia. The next step for the research team is to identify drugs or molecules that will trigger the awakening of these cells following damage.
While studying the cells of a lung tumor, Duke University researchers discovered a miniature stomach, duodenum, and small intestine hidden among the other cells within the tumor sample. The team of researchers found that these cells had lost the gene NKX2.1, which has been found to drive the differentiation of precursor cells into healthy lung cells. This finding underscores the ability of cancer cells to evade treatments and destruction.
Scientists at Swinburne University have developed a technology that allow surgeons to ‘draw’ bone or cartilage on to damaged sites in the body, potentially expediting recovery from injury. This technology, called the Biopen, utilizes mesenchymal stem cells that are extracted from patients, differentiated into the desired cell lineage in vitro, and then transplanted using the Biopen. This project has been funded by the BioMedTech Horizons program which will continue to optimize the technology for human use in the future.
Researchers from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center have published a study in PLOS Pathogens demonstrating a protocol to edit the CCR5 gene-in bone marrow stem cells of macaques infected with simian/human immunodeficiency virus (SHIV). This gene editing technique reduces the number of cells with dormant virus that contributes to the progression of the disease. The researchers have successfully shown the gene-edited SHIV-resistant cells reach up to 5% of the circulating white blood cells in the animal model. The next steps are to enhance the gene-editing technique to increase that percentage and provide a treatment without antiretroviral therapies.
A team led by scientists at UCLA have uncovered that induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) behavior after reprogramming is influenced by the number of X chromosomes in the cell. iPSCs derived from female cells (two X chromosomes) erase the DNA methylations of their former adult state, while male cells carry with them their methylations. These findings could better help us understand the underlying processes of iPSC reprogramming, making the process of creating them more efficient in the future.
In each tissue type, stem cells reside in niches that aid in tissue with regeneration, protect the body from the tissue over production, and protect the stem cells from depletion. A recent study from Duke Medical School set out to study the role of niches in stem cell health, specifically the role of key regulators, R-Spondins and Wnt proteins. Levels of these proteins affect the ability of the gut to repair tissue after injury and to maintains a consistent level of stem cells in healthy tissue. Looking to study regulation of gut niches in health and disease in vitro? Check out MimEX™ GI for the most accessible 3-D tissue model system! Learn more.
Researchers from Colorado University’s (CU) Gates Center for Regenerative Medicine were recently awarded part of multi-million-dollar consortium to help bring stem cell-generated skin grafts to a manufacturing stage. The goal of this grant award is to improve treatments to those with chronic skin wounds, such as Epidermolysis Bullosa (EB). The team from CU will focus on improving the efficiency of reprogramming of skin cells to iPSCs for downstream editing and differentiation to healthy skin cells.
The first autologous stem cell therapy for Alzheimer’s Disease has begun clinical testing in Japan. The treatment, a collaboration between South Korea’s Biostar Stem Cell Research Institute and Japan’s Trinity Clinic Hospital, will use adipose-derived mesenchymal stem cells administered intravenously. The treatment is touted to be a complete cure for the disease, rather than just to slow progression. About 80 patients are currently undergoing the treatment in Japan.
To maintain a population of healthy hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) in the body, a specific amount of the protein PUS7 is required. Researchers at Lund University in Sweden have discovered that the mis-regulation of this protein and others can affect blood stem cell development and increase the risk of blood cancers significantly. They found abnormal levels of PUS7 protein can also lead to poor differentiation of HSCs and delayed development of mature blood cells. The research team will continue to explore this mechanism and its affects on development and diseases of the bloodstream.
Endodermal tissues and organs are vital to the study of disease but are often difficult to culture for in vitro studies. Human iPSCs are a promising model that addresses the difficulties in culturing liver, pancreas, and the digestive tract. This review paper, recently published in Cell Stem Cell, discusses advances and challenges in the culture of endodermal tissues for disease modeling and cell-based therapies.