Stem Cell News 11/26/2012

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Niches in the News: A paper in Skeletal Muscle describes a new technique for repairing and building muscle. Researchers from several European centers injected mice bearing a model of late-stage muscular dystrophy with Mab cells, either alone or within a polyethylene glycol-fibrinogen hydrogel scaffold. After five weeks, scaffolded cells fared better…University of Copenhagen Researchers have demonstrated that stem cells grown under conditions that mimic physiology are superior to cells grown in 2D. Investigator Anne Grapin-Botton says that 3D environments provide “much better results. Therefore we are developing a three-dimensional culture medium in gelatine in the laboratory to mimic the one inside an embryo.”

Promising new stem cells: Precursors to mesenchymal stem cells, mesenchymoangioblasts, are under development by Cynata, a privately-held Australian startup. Mesenchymoangioblasts were discovered by Igor Slukvin at the University of Wisconsin Madison, and first reported in Cell in 2010. This cell type, a “missing link” between embryonic stem cells and mesenchymal stem cells, develop into blood, bone, and connective tissue cells…Georgetown University researchers claim to have discovered a new stem-like state for adult epithelial cells. Writing in the Nov. 19 edition of PNAS, researchers report that gene expression for the new cells, which differs from those of embryonic stem cells or iPSCs, prevent the cells from forming tumors when grown in vitro…Andrew Lotery and colleagues at the University of Southampton have discovered that corneal limbal stromal cells, which are found in the front of the eye, have stem cell-like properties. Lotery believes that the cells could lead to procedures for treating blindness. The research, published in the British Journal of Ophthalmology, suggests that corneal limbus cells would avoid complications such as rejection or contamination. “We are now investigating whether these cells could be taken from the front of the eye and be used to replace diseased cells in … the retina.

Cambridge University scientists report in Brain that olfactory sheathing cells partly reverse paralysis in dogs. The cells were harvested, cultured, and re-transplanted into the site of the animals’ spinal injuries. Ten weeks post-transplant, “the locomotor activity of these animals was significantly improved compared with control animals, which received implants of either pieces of nasal respiratory lamina propria or collagen.” The olfactory system is the only part of the body where nerve fibers continue to grow in adults. Located towards the rear of the nasal cavity, sheathing cells surround the receptor neurons responsible for smell.

CHF trial begins: Belgian firm Cardio3 BioSciences (C3BS) has received authorization from Belgian regulators to begin Congestive Heart failure Cardiopoietic Regenerative Therapy (CHART-1) European Phase III trial for its C3BS-CQR-1 protocol. The autologous transplantation therapy harvests stem cells from a patient’s bone marrow and re-programming them to become cardiopoietic (heart) cells. Cells are then injected into the patient’s heart through a minimally invasive procedure.

Pierre Vanderhaeghen and coworkers (Free University of Brussels) report in the Nov. 18 issue of Nature Neuroscience that the gene BCL6 is a critical factor in generating cortical neurons during embryonic brain development. Researchers identified BCL6 by searching for factors that modulate production of nerve cells in mouse model of neural differentiation. Overexpression of BCL6 resulted in “massive transformation” of neural stem cells into cortical neurons that were well differentiated and functional.

Business Briefs: Privately-owned Tissue Regenerative Therapeutics (TRT; Toronto), which specializes in technologies based human umbilical cord perivascular cells, has received an “undisclosed” investment from the Ontario Genomics Institute (OGI). TRT will apply the grant to treating arthritis, diabetes and Crohn’s disease… Kiadis Pharma (Amsterdam) has raised $12.8 million in an equity financing round led by Life Sciences Partners and supported by a large investment from DFJ-Esprit. The company holds two FDA orphan drug designations for its Reviroc product that purges cancer cells from bone marrow transplantation tissue…Chinese Regulators have granted registration to Sepax, a device sold by Swiss firm Biosafe Group, that automates stem cell isolation. The device is immediately available through Biosafe’s Shanghai subsidiary…Details of Geron’s Stem Cell Divestiture were recently publicized. The company has agreed to transfer its stem cell assets to BioTime in return for $5 million in cash and $30 million of BioTime stock. Geron’s shareholders will receive shares in a new stem-cell venture, and warrants to purchase BioTime shares. A private invester chipped in $5 million for a 7% stake in the new company…Meanwhile, another BioTime subsidiary, LifeMap Sciences, has released GeneCards® Version 3.09. Developed by Yeda Research and Development, the commercial arm of Israel’s Weizmann Institute, With more than 122,000 entries, GeneCards is an online database of all known and predicted human genes.

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