Stem Cells in the News - November 2018
Wednesday, October 31, 2018 - 10:02
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.
Researchers at the University of Colorado Cancer Center have found the upregulation of CDK1 and its direct interaction with Sox2 play a crucial role in the development of cancer resistance across multiple cancer types. The findings suggest a small subset of cancer stem cells (CSCs) do not downregulate expression of MHC Class 1, as previously thought. Additionally, these cells upregulate expression of CDK1 to further promote their stemness over time by interacting directly with SOX2. This signaling pathway may be crucial to understanding CSC mechanisms in several cancer types which may lead to better therapies in the future.
A multi-site clinical trial developed to study mesenchymal stem cell (MSC)-based treatment options for eye injuries has been awarded a $5.25 million grant from the United States Department of Defense (DoD). The role of MSCs in the eye injury model is as a supportive cell to lessen the inflammatory response, reduce scarring, and speed healing times. The ultimate goal of this trial is to reduce blindness as a result of eye injuries. The research team has been working with the DoD for the last five years studying the role MSCs could play in quality of life improvements for those with combat-related eye injuries. The grant will carry the team through phase 1 and phase 2 clinicals with early results expected in 2-4 years.
Bone marrow transplant treatment regiments can destroy a patient’s gut microbiota, leading to increased risks of bacterial infections and prolonged isolation and recovery time. Researchers at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center studied the effects of autologous fecal transplantation when done in tandem with bone marrow transplants. The small study showed improved patient outcomes in 75% of those receiving fecal transplantation as measured by shortened recovery time, less secondary infections, and confirmed re-establishment of the microbiota compared to before treatments were administered. This could serve as a simple way to quickly restore patient health following harsh treatment procedures.
Novo Nordisk has signed a long-term lease in Fremont, California to build a dedicated facility for the development of stem cell-based therapies. Their primary will focus is on therapies for the treatment of type 1 diabetes. Novo Nordisk is also working with the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) to license a technology for the cGMP production of human embryonic stem cell (hESC) lines. This move shows Novo Nordisk’s commitment to finding novel therapies and utilizing emerging technologies to provide solutions to unmet or currently inadequate medical needs.
Researchers from Cincinnati Children’s Center for Stem Cell and Organoid Medicine (CuSTOM) have published the first successful human organoid culture of the esophagus completely from pluripotent stem cells. This technology, and the ability to translate it into the clinic in the future, would provide a better model for the study and treatment of genetic disorders, such as Barrett’s Esophagus, and later life diseases, such as GERD. Currently, many of these diseases have insufficient or poor treatment options. The team will continue to focus their work towards the bioengineering process and scale up for translational studies in the future.
After a long investigation, Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital have called for the retraction of 31 papers from former faculty member and cardiac stem cell researcher, Pierre Anversa. Many of the retracted papers center around an adult stem cell he identified as early as 2003, which were later dubbed ‘c-kit cells’ and that he claimed could regenerate cardiac muscle tissue. Efforts to reproduce his results by others have yielded contradictory results and have shown no ability to regenerate cardiac tissues.
Cedars-Sinai Hospital has received almost $8 million from the US Department of Defense (DoD) and National Institutes of Health (NIH) to further develop regenerative tissue treatments for trauma patients. Researchers at the hospital have shown that injection of microbubbles mixed with DNA into damaged tissue followed by blasting the area with ultrasound waves can stimulate the stem cells in the damaged to start the regeneration process without major surgery. They have previously demonstrated shinbone regeneration in just eight weeks. This kick-start stem cell treatment will be the groundwork for a grant and their research over the next 3-5 years.
A live, attenuated vaccine to treat Zika viral infections may have a dual purpose in the treatment of glioblastomas. The Zika virus has previously been shown to be efficient in attacking glioblastoma stem cells (GSCs) in vitro, so the live, attenuated vaccine became a promising frontrunner to try to destroy these cancer stem cells. In this murine study, conducted at the Beijing Institute, vaccine-treated mice showed a significant delay in tumor development and demonstrated selective killing of the GSCs. This study holds promise for reducing glioblastoma recurrence rates when used in combination with other treatments.
Vulnerability to infections is common in patients that have received radiation therapy to treat leukemias and lymphomas. Researchers at MIT have sought to speed up the blood cell regeneration following radiation treatments by priming precursor cells with growth factors from engineered mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs). These primed precursors will help hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) and progenitor cells differentiate more quickly into functional blood cells. They have demonstrated improved recovery outcomes in a mouse model and hope to apply the technology to human studies in the future.
A recent publication in Nature Communications from Case Western University demonstrates a protocol for the efficient generation of oligodendrocytes and oligodendrocyte progenitor cells (OPCs) from mouse embryonic and pluripotent stem cells. The protocol is being adopted to aid in regenerative studies relating to Peliazeus Merzbacher disease – a fatal genetic disorder related to myelin production. The research team suggests this protocol is much more efficient at OPC generation and maturation than current protocols and can generate huge quantities of these cells for use therapeutically in the future.