Cells Weekly – August 16, 2015

by Alexey Bersenev on August 17, 2015 · 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. Cells Weekly is posted every Sunday night!


1. Update on fetal tissues donation/trade scandal
StemExpress – the company, which resells fetal tissues to researches, announced termination of partnership with US Planned Parenthood. From California Stem Cell Report blog:

“We value our various partnerships but, due to the increased questions that have arisen over the past few weeks, we feel it prudent to terminate activities with Planned Parenthood. While we value our business relationship with Planned Parenthood, that work represents a small percentage of our overall business activity and we must focus our limited resources on resolving these inquiries.

I’m skipping mass media coverage, but interesting discussion on the subject was posted by top medical journal – NEJM this week. In the first piece, entitled Fetal Tissue Fallout, Alta Charo criticized “sting operation of anti-abortionists to discredit Planned Parenthood and highlights the value of fetal tissue research:

By using the public’s unfamiliarity with the history and realities of fetal tissue research as a back door for attacking Planned Parenthood, abortion opponents have added millions of people to the collateral damage of the abortion wars. This attack represents a betrayal of the people whose lives could be saved by the research and a violation of that most fundamental duty of medicine and health policy, the duty of care.

In another piece, entitled Planned Parenthood at Risk, the authors voiced a support for Planned Parenthood in “this hard time”:

We thank the women who made the choice to help improve the human condition through their tissue donation; we applaud the people who make this work possible and those who use these materials to advance human health. We are outraged by those who debase these women, this work, and Planned Parenthood by distorting the facts for political ends.

The real discussion took place in comments section, where many MDs were in disagreement with author and NEJM “editorial politics”. I’ve picked one such comment:

I am so done with the New England Journal and its leftist editorials. My subscription is cancelled as of today. I cannot in good conscience support with my hard earned money media that justifies the not only the selling of fetal tissues, but performing abortions in such a way as to preserve the organs for better prices.

2. Xenotransplantation of humanized organs
This story was the most discussed this week (after fetal tissue scandal, of course) in mass media. MIT Tech Review posted a piece about success of US-based company Revivicor (division of United Therapeutics) in xenotransplantation of humanized pig organs into primates:

“We want to make organs come off the assembly line, a dozen per day,” says Rothblatt.

“We are adding the human genes to the pig so you have the organ repressing the immune response, rather than have to give a whopping dose of immune suppressants,” says Ayares. By next year, some of the pigs will have as many as eight added human genes. These genetic changes make their organs more compatible with a human body, but the animals still look and act like normal pigs.

… a transplant surgeon and researcher at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, in Bethesda, Maryland, says a heart from one of Revivicor’s pigs lasted two and a half years inside a baboon.

Great article on the progress in the field – highly recommended!

3. The story behind of the first “rejuvenating plasma transfusions” trial
Yet another great piece in popular media, I’d recommend you to read is a story behind discovery “circulating rejuvenating factors in young blood”, appeared in Guardian. It is very lengthy article, but absolutely worth reading. Some of my favorite quotes:

The study was published in Nature Medicine in 2014. Immediately, emails flooded in to Wyss-Coray’s inbox. Alzheimer’s patients wanted infusions of young blood. So did numerous aged billionaires. One, who flies around in a jet with his name emblazoned on the side, invited Wyss-Coray to an Oscars after-party this year. (He didn’t go.) Another correspondent wrote with a more disturbing offer: he said he could provide blood from children of whatever age the scientists required. Wyss-Coray was appalled. “That was creepy,” he said.

Alkahest’s ultimate goal – to identify the key proteins in plasma that rejuvenate or age human tissues and then manufacture a product that uses them – could take 10 to 15 years. In the near term, the company has another strategy. Earlier this year, the Spanish blood products firm, Grifols, pledged $37.5m for a 45% stake in Alkahest.

And what then? One enormous obstacle for hopes of plasma therapy is the limited supply. In a rough extrapolation from the mouse studies, Nikolich estimates that the globe’s entire plasma supply would be sufficient for only half a million of the world’s 15 million Alzheimer’s patients. “That means big questions about who gets treatment and who does not,” he said.

4. Insight into eye gene therapy trial
Cynthia Fox of Drug Discovery and Development wrote a great piece on the recent study, published in Science TM.

An historic University of Pennsylvania/Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia gene therapy trial, launched in 2007, restored vision to many Leber’s Congenital Amaurosis Type 2 (LCA2) patients who would normally go completely blind by their early 40s. Although reviving the retina was one key to restoring these patients’ sight, the new imaging study showed the gene therapy also prompted the brain to rewire, strengthening the visual pathway from eye to brain.

5. New methods and protocols:
Decellularized human liver as a natural scaffold for liver bioengineering (Sci Reports)
Neural induction of human MSC using neural-cell derived exosomes (PLoS ONE)
Direct reprogramming of mouse fibroblasts in neurons by small molecules (Cell Stem Cell)
Generation of functional cardiomyocytes from human iPS cells (PLoS ONE)
Dedifferentiation of muscle cells in regenerative progenitor in newt (Nature Commun)
Rapid method for isolation of MSC from whole umbilical cord (Cell Transplant)
Neural induction of human fibroblasts via a genetic material-free approach (PLoS ONE)

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