Stem Cells in the News - October 2017
Friday, September 29, 2017 - 15:44
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.
While Zika virus infection can be detrimental to the developing brain, it may have a therapeutic application. Researchers at the University of California - San Diego and the Washington University School of Medicine have uncovered that the Zika virus can be used to target malignant glioblastoma cancer cells by attacking neural cancer precursor cells in the brain. When compared to traditional chemotherapies, the Zika treatment was much more effective at killing cancer stem cells and, importantly, did not target non-malignant cells in the brain. The research team hopes to further enhance this potential treatment through CRISPR/Cas9 genetic modifications of the virus.
Stem cell scientists at Kyoto University have implanted induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC)-derived neurons into the brains of monkeys that exhibit Parkinson’s-like symptoms. They demonstrated that these cells live and function for at least 2 years in the brain and that they reduce the debilitating neurodegenerative symptoms of the disease. The results of the study showed no tumor growth in the brains, which is a common concern with stem cell treatments. The research team hopes to move into clinical trials by the end of the year.
While researchers have started sending stem cells into space, scientific collaborations between NASA and academic institutions have been happening for years. This write-up in Science discusses collaborations between atomic physicists and NASA engineers to create Bose-Einstein condensate (BEC) matter. In 2018, NASA will launch its $70 million Cold Atom Laboratory (CAL) to the International Space Station (ISS) to continue this research.
The importance of understanding the stem cell niche – the local environment surrounding the stem cells, including cell-cell and paracrine signaling interactions – is recognized in this recent grant award to Dr. Cornelia Lee-Thedieck. Dr. Lee-Thedieck, the head of the “Stem Cell-Material Interactions” group at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, was awarded a 5 year, EUR 1.5 million dollar award for her work focusing on creating models to investigate the cross-talk between hematopoietic stem cells and mesenchymal stem cells within the local bone marrow environment. Results from the study will hopefully lead to more effective regenerative medicine treatments for individuals with bone or musculoskeletal disease, such as leukemia.
Graft versus Host Disease (GVHD) is a risk for recipients of bone marrow or hematopoietic stem cell transplant. GVHD occurs when the immune cells generated from transplanted stem cells attack the host’s native cells and tissue. Kymab, an antibody company, has developed an antibody – KY1005, an OX40 ligand antagonist - that could be used to improve therapeutic control over GVHD, while maximizing immune cell immune cell reconstitution in the stem cell transplant recipient.
Human organ tissue transplantation is hampered by the limited supply of donor organs. This review, recently published in Science, highlights scientific advances in the xenotransplantation of pig organs in humans. Xenotransplantation, the transplantation of tissue from one species into another, of pig tissue is at the forefront of this progressive research field due to its similarity in tissue size, it’s accessibility for genetic modifications, and the relatively rapid speed for organ tissue generation.
Echoing the recent buzz around improving the reproducibility of biomedical research, Nature recently published an article estimating that the United States alone spends $28 billion each year on research where experiments cannot be successfully repeated. In acknowledgement of this confound in scientific research, Bio-Techne is actively involved in a number of initiatives meant to improve scientific research reproducibility, particularly research that utilizes antibodies for histo- and cyto-patholgoy, functional assays, and Western Blotting. Watch a recent webinar on reproducibility here.
Dr. Magdalena Zernicka-Goetz, a University of Cambridge biologist, is the corresponding author on the recent Science publication highlighting the use of stem cells to generate the first artificial mouse embryo. By combining mouse embryonic stem cells and extra-embryonic trophoblast stem cells in a 3D matrix, Dr. Zernicka-Goetz’s research team observed the generation of embryos that resemble embryonic structures, including aspects of self-assembly, morphogenesis and cytoarchitecture. This model can provide key insights into early developmental events surrounding embryogenesis.
A recent article in Science demonstrates progress in using organoids to model mutational processes involved in cancer initiation and progression. Groups in the Netherlands and the United Kingdom used CRISPR/Cas9 to induce mutations into colon organoids, showing that these mutations were able to accurately model mutation profiles observed in mismatch repair-deficient colorectal cancers. This strategy could be used to better explore the etiology of cancer through genetic mutation.
In the September issue of the Stem Cells in Focus, by the International Society for Stem Cell Research (ISSCR), a commentary was published reviewing recent advancements for using organoids to investigate Zika virus infection, to understand brain development, and to optimize precision medicine.
Researchers at the University of Michigan have developed a new method for the isolation of blood-circulating tumor cells (CTC), providing a new strategy for identifying cancer stem cells and cells undergoing epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition. Their Microfluidic Labyrinth provides a high-throughput system for the isolation of CTCs with high yield and purity without the use of labeling technology.
Using 3D organoid lung tissue models and single-cell RNA sequencing, a research team at Harvard Medical School and the Cambridge Stem Cell Institute and the Welcome Trust, have found that mesenchymal cells provide instructions to the epithelial cells in the lung to become either airway or alveolar cells. This research, published in Cell, provides more support for the importance of investigating signaling and interactions within the stem cell niche as way to advance regenerative medicine.