This week in stem cell news: Fibronectin in a clinical trials success story, STAP cells not so remarkable anymore

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Every week, discoveries in the regenerative medicine field span the gamut from remarkable to groundbreaking to surprising, not to mention they add up to, in numbers, more than the space we have to mention them. This week, we highlight a couple of interesting developments that have generated a significant amount of discussion in the regenerative medicine field over the past week.

  • STAP cells: Not so remarkable? A few weeks ago, we wrote about STAP cells, after Haruko Obokata and colleagues at Harvard Medical School made a big splash in the stem cell field by publishing a paper in Nature claiming to have discovered a new type of stem cells, called STAP, which are adult skin cells that acquire pluripotency after a simple exposure to an acidic environment. Since the publication, these findings have been under increasing scrutiny. First came the good news: Nature made history when it agreed to make the paper in question open access, i.e. available online for free. Then, the not-so-good news followed: While much praise was lavished on the study at the time of publication, the past week the stem cell community has grown increasingly skeptical of the study after findings surfaced about the paper that paint a much bleaker picture. Serious allegations of data irregularities accuse the authors of plagiarism both in the data and the figures, bringing into question Obokata’s entire study. The RIKEN Center for Developmental Biology in Kobe announced that is has begun a formal investigation into the studies, while independent groups have been attempting to reproduce the results of the study, so far unsuccessfully. The lively discussion that has surfaced in the stem cell community is exciting to follow, even though it’s anybody’s guess how this will all play out. We will be watching.
  • Fibronectin: A clinical trials success story. We know that fibronectin is good at its job. A remarkable extracellular matrix protein, fibronectin has found wide-ranging application in tissue engineering constructs such as Dermagraft that have been successfully commercialized. Another success story of the remarkable biological activity of fibronectin comes from Kyoto Prefectures University of Medicine in Japan. The results of a Phase 1 clinical trial on T cell therapy to treat patients with advanced cancer have just been published, and they signal good news. The study,  Phase I Clinical Trial of Fibronectin CH296-Stimulated T Cell Therapy in Patients with Advanced Cancer was published in PLoS One by Takeshi Ishikawa and colleagues. The authors report that fibronectin (fragment CH296)-stimulated T cell transfer therapy showed very good tolerance and efficacy over a course of 3 months. Fibronectin acts together with anti-CD3 to induce T cell proliferation. In this way, the authors used fibronectin to generate “fit T cells”, and showed that such an approach could be extended to various T cell based therapies.

For more on human fibronectin, including custom bioassay design, see our fibronectin product page.

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