Stem Cell News 10/31/2012

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Blood stem cell growth factor: Duke researchers have identified a protein, pleiotrophin, that may be a long-sought growth factor for blood stem cells. In mouse studies, pleiotrophin induces transplanted blood stem cells to locate in bone marrow, where they differentiate to mature red and white cells. The study, in the Oct. 18, 2012, issue of Cell Reports, suggests new treatments to speed hematopoietic recovery after chemotherapy or bone marrow or cord blood transplants. Safety studies will be crucial, as earlier work indicates that pleiotrophin may promote cancer cell growth.

Guide for dealing with FDA: A California stem cell agency executive has produced a guide for navigating U.S. approval for stem cell therapies. The article, in Stem Cells Translational Medicine, explains how to work with FDA and complexities of the approval pathway. Among potential pitfalls are stem cell designations as biologics or devices, when to schedule meetings, and what to bring. Author Ellen Feigal is executive VP at the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, which has been funded to the tune of $3 billion since its founding in 2004.

Duke researchers have engineered cartilage from induced pluripotent stem cells. The finding, reported online Oct. 29, 2012, in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggests that the cells may be a viable source of patient-specific cartilage tissue. Team leader Farshid Guilak, PhD, professor of orthopedic surgery, said that his research, in mice, demonstrates “the ability to create an unlimited supply of stem cells that can turn into any type of tissue – in this case cartilage, which has no ability to regenerate by itself.”

Japanese Moving on Clinical Trials: A Kobe, Japan-based team of scientists led by Masayo Takahashi has applied for permission to conduct a clinical study that will use human induced pluripotent stem cells to regenerate human retinas. Researchers hope to begin the program – the first clinical application of iPS cells, by the end of 2013. Meanwhile, Cytori Therapeutics (San Diego) will begin two cell therapy clinical studies in Japan, under direction of Shuichi Kaneko of the Graduate School of Medicine at Kanazawa University Hospital. Cytori specializes in cell therapies based on autologous adipose-derived regenerative cells. One study will target ischemic heart failure, and the other cirrhosis of the liver. In both studies, patients will receive their own adipose-derived stem and regenerative cells processed at the point-of-care using Cytori’s automated cell harvesting system.

Streamlining myeloid study: Prof. Fei Wang at the University of Illinois has devised a new technique for studying how myeloids become white blood cells. His work provides novel insight into myeloid differentiation, and may improve the ability to treat leukemias. Previously, studying myeloid differentiation involved harvesting cells from animals, or transforming leukemia cells to myeloid stem cell-like states. Wang instead turned mouse embryonic stem cells into myeloid progenitor cells, then immortalized these cells by addition of the protein Hoxb8.  to these cells that had been shown previously to immortalize myeloid progenitor cells.

Researchers at the National Heart Centre Singapore have created a human model of arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy (ARVC), an inherited disorder associated with high risk of arrhythmias and sudden cardiac death. The human heart cell model uses patient-specific induced pluripotent stem cells derived from skin samples of ARVC patients.

On October 26, University of California, Santa Barbara, opened its new Center for Stem Cell Biology and Engineering. The new facility combines two faculties: biomedical science and engineering. Funding was provided by California’s stem cell referendum, passed in 2004 to make the state a leader in stem cell research. Ironically, Santa Barbara lacks its own medical school but the center will use the slogan, “New Medicine Starts Here.”

Business Briefs: A week after receiving its first NIH stem cell contract, Cellectis Bioresearch announced on October 23 a second grant, bringing the company’s total NIH funding to more than $15 million. Biologics manufacturer Lonza, and OncoMed, a small-molecule drug developer, have agreed to collaborate on developing and manufacturing OncoMed’s pipeline of anti-cancer stem cell monoclonal antibodiesResearch and Markets has issued a new report, Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation – Pipeline Review, which updates earlier studies on therapeutic hematopoietic stem cells and key players. The California Institute for Regenerative Medicine has awarded $9.3 million to Bluebird Bio (Cambridge, Mass.) and $10.1 million to ViaCyte (San Diego) Bluebird uses stem cells and gene therapy in beta-thalassemia; ViaCyte’s specialty is embryonic stem cells for insulin-dependent diabetes.

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