Stem Cell News 1/28/13

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Israel’s Technion Institute of Technology has established a company to commercialize stem cell technologies developed over the past decade by Professor Joseph Itskovitz-Eldor of Technion’s Bruce and Ruth Rappaport Faculty of Medicine. The firm, Accellta, will market technologies for culturing homogeneous stem cell lines rapidly and cost-effectively.

In response to criticism over potential conflicts of interest from the Institute of Medicine, The California Institute for Regenerative Medicine has endorsed a “framework” to address these concerns. Among the reforms: Board members who compete for CIRM funding would no longer vote on grants. Nature Newsblog article.

Researchers at Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute and Johns Hopkins have produced the first “disease in a dish” model for arrythmogenic right ventricular dysplasia/cardiomyopathy (ARVD/C). Huei-Sheng Vincent Chen reports in Nature on his technique, which employs skin cells to create iPSCs from the skin of an ARVD/C patient. When differentiated into heart muscle, the cells recapitulate diseased tissue.

Iqbal Ahmad at the University of Nebraska has devised a novel approach to creating IPSCs. The technique turns adult limbal stem cells from the cornea into cells as powerfully regenerative as embryonic stem cells. This approach could generate retinal progenitor cells that could cure glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration. The work builds off work by John B. Gurdon and Shinya Yamanaka, who won the 2013 Nobel Prize in medicine for their discovery on altering adult stem cells into iPSCs.

Prajina Guha and coworkers at NIH and Boston University have coaxed induced mouse pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) to become several different cell lines. No adverse immune response was observed upon transplantation into genetically identical mice.  and transplanted those cells into genetically identical mice without triggering a strong immune response. Abstract in Cell Stem Cell.

University at Buffalo research explains how defects in a critical neurological pathway in early development may cause schizophrenia later in life. Writing in Schizophrenia Research¸ Michal Stachowial from Buffalo’s Dept. of Pathology used a mouse model to show how gestational brain changes can cause behavioral problems, similar to the human disease, later in life. The genomic pathway involved, called Integrative Nuclear FGFR 1 Signaling (INFS), is an intersection point for multiple pathways of as many as 160 different genes believed to be involved in Schizophrenia. “We believe this is the first model that explains schizophrenia from genes to development to brain structure and finally to behavior,” Michal says.

Kenji Osafune at Kyoto University has generated kidney tissue from iPSCs, a potential breakthrough for millions who depend on dialysis. Osafune generated part of a urinary tubule, a complex structure that once damaged is difficult to restore. Researchers succeeded in generating intermediate mesoderm tissue, of which kidneys are largely composed, after 11 days of cultivation with a success rate of more than 90%. Paper in Nature Communications.

MIT biologists have identified a gene, lncRNA (dubbed “Braveheart”) that stimulates stem cells to transform into heart cells in the mouse, and that may operate similarly in humans. Learning more about lncRNAs could lead to strategies for drug-based regenerative heart treatments. “It opens a new door to what we could do, and how we could use lncRNAs to induce specific cell types,” says Carla Klattenhoff, a postdoctoral biologist and a lead author of a paper in Cell describing these findings.

HERV-H, a retrovirus that inserted itself into the human genome millions of years ago, may direct how pluripotent stem cells do their magic. Writing in Retrovirology, scientists at U. Mass Medical School believe the discovery could profoundly affect how clinicians use pluripotent stem cells to treat human diseases. “HERV-H is extremely busy in human embryonic stem cells,” said lead researcher Jeremy Luban “[It] is one of the most abundantly expressed genes in pluripotent stem cells and it isn’t found in any other cell types.”

With Japan in perennial recession, the picture for research funding looked bleak as recently as three years ago. Now, the newly elected Liberal Democratic Party-led government is reversing years of budget cuts. Science wins big in the Japanese government’s massive ¥10.3-trillion ($116 billion) economic stimulus package. The biggest beneficiary will be clinical stem cell research, which will receive $235 million. The focus will be in iPSCs.

Leprosy-causing bacteria perform an unlikely “biological alchemy” by infecting specialized nerves, called Schwann cells, and changing them into stem cells. These hijacked stem cells can then change in to any cell type, more effectively spreading the bacteria through the body. “’This is a very sophisticated mechanism,” says Professor Anura Rambukkana of the University of Edinburgh, who led the study which is published in the journal Cell. “It seems the bacterium know the mechanistic interactions of the Schwann cell better than we do.”

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