Forbes nicely summarizes the results of three studies urging caution for autologous stem cell transplantation, as originally reported from the Knoepfler Lab Stem Cell Blog. “The reality is that there are more questions than answers about the safety of stem cell treatments, and each treatment (depending on the institution, the doctor, and the patient) is likely to have a variable and perhaps unpredictable level of safety.”
Can stem cells aid in the development of bone at the site of dental implants? Julio Carrion, of Stony Brook University, is undertaking a study to see if mesemcymal stem cells can correct alveolar ridge deficiencies – a reduction in supportive bone mass caused by tooth extraction and/or bone resorption.
Master switches: Stem cells can differentiate into approximately 200 different somatic cells. What drives their eventual fate could be the key to efficient channeling of stem cells into regenerative replacements. Scientists at the University of Copenhagen believe they have found the answer: Fbxl10, a protein that binds the polycomb protein complex PRC1. Embryonic stem cells do not properly differentiate in the absence of Fbxl10. Levels of the protein may also govern processes involved in cancer development, according to a report in Molecular Cell…But this is hardly the last word on “holy grail” differentiation enablers. Edinburgh researchers have identified a natural trigger, the protein Tcf15, which kick-starts differentiation. Tcf15 marks subsets of pluripotent cells for somatic lineages, but its activity depends on down-regulation its suppressor protein, Id. Full paper.
Neural stem cells: A report in Cell Stem Cell (full text) describes a technique for repairing myelin with iPSCs derived from human skin cells. The University of Rochester’s Steven Goldman transformed the stem cells into immature versions of myelin-producing brain cells. When injected into myelin-deficient mice, the treatment “substantially increased” the animals’ survival…One concern with autologous adult stem cell therapy is that “diseased” or genetically predisposed somatic cells will, after induced pluripotency, recapitulate the disease process. Not true, according to a recent study in Stem Cells Translational Medicine. Maria Teresa González-Garza (Tecnologico de Monterrey, Mexico) has shown that stem cells taken ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) patients can develop into viable, mature neuron-like cells as do stem cells derived from healthy donors. This work adds credibility for conducting experiments in autologous stem cell transplantation in ALS and other neurodegenerative diseases.
Niche News: Development of a porous, biodegradable niche for bone regeneration, by Ferdous Khan and coworkers at the universities at Edinburgh and Southampton, has European news outlets agog. For example here, and here. The trick was finding a material strong enough to serve as structural bone, and which remained strong as the polymer degraded. The materials that made the cut was a mixture of chitosan, polylactide, and polyvinylacetate with pore structures ranging from 50 to 600 μm – large enough to allow cell colonization, blood vessel growth, and tissue regeneration…Meanwhile Will Shu, at Scotland’s Heriot Watt University has demonstrated a 3D printing technique – normally used to form mechanical prototypes – that creates bubbles of between five and 140 embryonic stem cells floating in culture medium. “The resulting aggregates have controllable and repeatable sizes, and consequently they can be made to order for specific applications,” Shu writes in Biofabrication. The work does not claim the potential for “printed” organs in two years. Rather it shows that 3D printing is gentle enough to maintain stem cell viability and pluripotency, in uniform structures…But from the “watch what you read on the internet” department, a blog reporting this discovery completely, but predictably, gets Shu’s discovery wrong. It relates that 3D printing of embryonic stem cells would “eliminate the need for donors,” as if non-self embryo transplants are not allografts. At the same time, Shu’s technique would “completely eradicate[e] the use of animals for testing.
Business Briefs: James H. Millonig, of the University of Medicine and Dentistry (NJ), has received a five-year, $2.125 million grant from the New Jersey Governor’s Council for Medical Research to develop potential induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) treatments for autism spectrum disorder…BioTime has finally closed the deal and acquired Geron’s embryonic stem cell cell business, as reported in Nature Biotechnology. The question, raised by (a not totally disinterested) Wesley Smith at National Review Online is whether anyone still expects anything from this program… RNL BIO (Seol, S. Korea) has filed an Investigational New Drug (IND) application Korean regulators to begin phase 2 clinical trials on the company’s RNL-Astrostem™ stem cell drug in patients with cerebral palsy. RNL-BIO’s phase I trial demonstrated safety, including lack of tumorigenicity.