Stem Cells in the News - November 2017
Monday, October 30, 2017 - 15:16
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.
With incidences of liver cancer steadily on the rise since 2003, it is important that we discover new routes of therapeutic options for patients. A team of researchers at the University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine have recently shown that mitophagy, or the removal of damaged mitochondria in cells, is important for how liver cancer stem cell maintain their population and contribute to disease. The team, led by Dr. Jing-Hsiung James Ou, have shown that mitophagy can eliminate p53, a tumor-suppressing gene, resulting in more malignancies and a larger population of cancer stem cells. They show that halting this process resulted in declining rates of cancer stem cells and diminishing tumor sizes. This finding could also be applied to other cancers in the future.
In a newly announced partnership, GlaxoSmithKline has committed to supply Plasticell with small molecules for iPSC line screening in order to develop a robust protocol for hematopoietic stem cell production. Using Plasticell’s technology, CombiCult®, they will seek to optimize the differentiation of many different iPSC cell lines into HSCs. The goal is to streamline and optimize the protocol for clinical applications of blood disorders and disease.
In a study recently published in the Journal of Neurosurgery, Australian researchers from the company Mesoblast, have shown improved regeneration of damaged vertebrate discs in sheep. The study shows that injection of mesenchymal precursor cells reduced inflammation in damaged vertebrate and secreted factors that aided in the rebuilding of these structures. Their human study began earlier this year and MRI scans post-injection have already shown rebuilt tissue. Their research hopes to find a better option for those suffering from chronic back pain and to curb the opioid addiction and overdose rates worldwide.
Patients with Crohn’s Disease often suffer from fistulas, which are both painful and recurring. A recent review of studies utilizing the power of mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) in the treatment for Crohn’s-related fistulas found them to have greater benefits over the current treatment options, including less risk of viral infection, low risk of Graft vs. Host Disease (GvHD), improved anti-inflammatory properties, and lower recurrence rates. These findings are progress toward to providing a better quality of life to those suffering from this chronic disease.
Researchers at the Sanger Institute developed a new class of stem cell from very young mouse embryos and treat them with a chemical cocktail to keep them in a primordial state. They have dubbed these supped-up cells, expanded-potential stem cells (EPSCs). What makes them unique is their ability to create placenta and yolk sac tissues. This allows for a new way to study embryonic development and could lead to new solutions to protect the embryo from adverse conditions, such as recurrent miscarriages.
An international team of researchers have embarked on a study to determine, at a single cell level, the decisions stem cells make as they differentiate and react to environmental conditions. Their studies used single cell RNA-sequencing to identify several proteins involved in the fate of cells after exposure to retinoic acid. Interested in studying your cells at a single cell level? Check out Milo™ Single-Cell Westers for identifying protein expression at the single cell level, or take a look at RNAScope® Assays, our RNA In Situ Hybridzation platform that can give you the gene expression profile of your cells, at the single cell level!
Two studies have been published in the Journal of Gerontology utilizing MSCs in the treatment of Frailty, an age-related condition that is diagnosed by a reduced population of circulating MSCs, reduced cardiac performance, and deteriorating mesenchymal tissues. The research team from the University of Miami transplanted MSCs into the study population (100 people over age 76) and observed ‘remarkable’ improvements in the quality of life of these individuals. The trial will now move into phase 3 clinical trials in the coming months.
The use of induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) in clinical trials have grown exponentially over the past 10 years, and the researchers in Japan have been leading the charge. Several groups of researchers in Japan are making major strides, with treatments poised to enter the clinics in the country within the next year. iPSC-related solutions for developmental disorders and spinal cord injuries are just a few of the innovative treatments under consideration with Japan's Ministry of Health.
Hans Clevers, the President of ISSCR, has written an open letter voicing public support for the scientific community to be able to continue to conduct research on fetal tissues. His letter underscores the importance of this tissue type in all realms of research including virology, developmental biology, and personalized medicine. Enacting road blocks to this research would stall development of new and innovative solutions to human suffering.
Zika virus and its effects on neurodevelopment have been a hot topic for the past few years and researchers at the University of Pennsylvania may have uncovered the specific viral component responsible for the damaging microcephaly observed in infected fetuses. They infected mouse fetuses in utero with individual proteins from the virus, and observed the protein NS2A produced brain abnormalities consistent with viral infection. Using mouse brain organoids they discovered that the this protein contributes to adheren junction deficits and neural progenitor polarity dysfunction during Zika brain infection. The uncovering of this mechanism could lead to new avenues of therapeutic intervention that may reduce symptoms and deficits from this viral infection.
The NIH has awarded University of Southern California scientist, Dr. Gage Crump with an $8 million grant to develop his research to understand where stem cells come from and how they may be used therapeutically in organ damage and regeneration. Dr. Crump works in a zebrafish model of human development and regeneration of the head and face. With this grant, he plans to closely explore the processes stem cells contribute to the development, maintenance, and regeneration of structures of the head and face.