Cells Weekly – December 22, 2013

by Alexey Bersenev on December 22, 2013 · 0 comments

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Cells Weekly is a digest of the most interesting news and events in stem cell research, cell therapy and regenerative medicine. Read Cells Weekly every Sunday night!


1. Cell therapy in utero
A report about 2 clinical cases of cell therapy in utero by allogeneic fetal mesenchymal stromal cell for treatment of inherited skeletal defect (osteogenesis imperfpecta), was published this week in Stem Cells TM:

Our findings suggest that prenatal transplantation of allogeneic hfMSCs in OI appears safe and is of likely clinical benefit and that retransplantation with same-donor cells is feasible. However, the limited experience to date means that it is not possible to be conclusive and that further studies are required.

This report is very long-awaited. Cell therapy in utero is extremely rare medical experimentation. The first case was described 8 years ago by Karolinska Institutet’s team and nothing was reported since then. The same patient was re-transplanted at 8 years of age and reported in current paper. The outcome of one additional patient, who got the same treatment in Singapore is also reported.

2. Bioprinting of the eye prototype
Retinal cells from rat eye have been printer for the first time. The study published in Biofabrication journal. From press release:

“Our study has shown, for the first time, that cells derived from the mature central nervous system, the eye, can be printed using a piezoelectric inkjet printer. Although our results are preliminary and much more work is still required, the aim is to develop this technology for use in retinal repair in the future.”

“We plan to extend this study to print other cells of the retina and to investigate if light-sensitive photoreceptors can be successfully printed using inkjet technology. In addition, we would like to further develop our printing process to be suitable for commercial, multi-nozzle print heads,” Professor Martin concluded.

3. Stem cell quiescence is a form of tumor suppression
A group of researchers from UCLA demonstrate that quiescent state of skin hair follicle stem cells is a mechanism for tumor suppression:

Using the hair follicle as a model system for tumorigenesis with a stem cell origin, we explored the potential influence of the cycling nature of stem cell activation and quiescence in tumour initiation. The data presented here demonstrate that quiescence can be used to suppress tumorigenesis in stem cells harbouring cancer-causing mutations.

Very interesting and important study! There is an ongoing discussion on induction quiescence versus activation of dormant state of cancer stem cells for therapeutic targeting. Pharmacological induction of quiescence could be attractive approach, but it remains unclear how dormant malignant stem cells will behave long-term.

4. Direct in vivo reprogramming of neural cells
Using only one factor NeuroD1, researchers were able to reprogram in vivo mouse glial cells in neurons in brain injury and Alzheimer’s disease. The study was published this week in Cell Stem Cell:

Following expression of NeuroD1, astrocytes were reprogrammed into glutamatergic neurons, while NG2 cells were reprogrammed into glutamatergic and GABAergic neurons.
… Our studies therefore suggest that direct reprogramming of reactive glial cells into functional neurons in vivo could provide an alternative approach for repair of injured or diseased brain.

5. Stem cells for spinal cord injury – analysis of animal studies
PLoS Biologue blog covers a recent meta-analysis of experimental findings in stem cell therapy of spinal cord injury:

In this case the authors assessed 156 published studies that examined the effects of stem cell treatment for experimental spinal injury in a total of about 6000 animals.

Overall, they found that stem cell treatment results in an average improvement of about 25% over the post-injury performance in both sensory and motor outcomes, though the results can vary widely between animals.

Highly recommended to read!

6. Three-parent baby – ethical debate
New York Times posted very interesting piece on so-called “three-parent babies”, touching such new controversial technologies as mitochondrial transfer and somatic cell nuclear transfer. This piece triggers discussion about ethical side:

“We’re mixing the DNA of two women in a single baby,” said Sheldon Krimsky, a bioethicist and professor of urban and environmental policy and planning at Tufts University. “I don’t see how that can be ethical.”

You can read comments section here. I was involved in the discussion on twitter.
The question is who we are to judge what is ethical and what is not in this case? Wouldn’t it be more ethical to give parents a valid information about all options and give them a choice: A – adopt, B – donor egg, C- mitochondria transfer/ SCNT? My hope is to see trials next year in UK and US!

7. 2014 is a year of big expectations for cell therapy
Business analyst Jason Kolbert leverages his expertise in Biotech industry to understand and predict trends in cell therapy. This week he gives an interview for The Life Sciences Report:

I believe, as an analyst, that the way you bring the most value is by identifying a paradigm shift, and I believe that cell therapy represents such a shift.

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