Cells Weekly – February 7, 2016

by Alexey Bersenev on February 8, 2016 · 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!

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1. UK gives green light for CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing of human embryos in research
It was the most important event this week – a historic milestone! UK Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) granted permission to Kathy Niakan (from Francis Crick Institute) to use CRISPR-based genome editing technique in studying development of normal human embryos. The reaction of scientists was mostly positive:

“It’s an important first. The HFEA has been a very thoughtful, deliberative body that has provided rational oversight of sensitive research areas, and this establishes a strong precedent for allowing this type of research to go forward,” says George Daley, a stem-cell biologist at Boston Children’s Hospital in Massachusetts.

Robin Lovell-Badge, a developmental biologist at the Crick institute, says that the HFEA’s decision will embolden other researchers who hope to edit the genomes of human embryos. He has heard from other UK scientists who are interested in pursuing embryo-editing research, he says, and expects that more applications will follow. In other countries, he says, the decision “will give scientists confidence to either apply to their national regulatory bodies, if they have them, or just to go ahead anyway”.

I’m feeling very happy about this decision!

@NatureNews polled public on a twitter about this decision – 62% agree with decision, 20% – disagree, 18% – not sure.

More coverage:
UK government agency approves editing genes in human embryos (STAT)
Kathy Niakan’s press conference (.mp3)

2. News on mitochondrial replacement therapy in US
US National Academies of Sciences had a meeting this week to discuss controversial mitochondrial replacement therapy (mitochondrial transfer or 3-donor IVF) and related risks and regulation. The panel issued a report, where recommended permissive regulation by FDA with some conditions.

In its report, the academy panel suggests limiting the tests of mitochondrial replacement to male embryos as a safety precaution. Male offspring would not be able to pass their modified mitochondria to future generations, because a child inherits its mitochondria from its mother.
The report also outlines several extra steps to monitor the safety of mitochondrial replacement. These include making every attempt to follow the children born as a result of the technique for years and sharing the resulting data with scientists and the public.
If mitochondrial replacement is proven safe in male offspring, it could be expanded to female embryos, the advisory panel said.

Unlike US, UK approved this procedure last year with no restriction on sex of embryos.

3. Update on Macchiarini’s saga
Famed regenerative medicine surgeon Paolo Macchiarini continues to struggle with allegations in research misconduct. This week, The Karolinska Institute, where Macchiarini has an appointment, started new investigation of potential ethical breaches. The trigger for investigation was new documentary about few patient stories and scandalous article in Vanity Fair. Later this week, Karolinska Institute says that they “lost confidence” in Macchiarini and will not renew his contract:

In an email to Science, KI spokesman Claes Keisu writes that Macchiarini has “overexploited Karolinska [Institute’s] brand in his work in Krasnodar. His activities there have undermined KI’s reputation and damaged the public’s trust in KI.” Discrepancies in Macchiarini’s CV contributed to the decision as well, Keisu writes.

Macchiarini did not immediately respond to a request for comment on KI’s decision. In an email to Science on Tuesday, he wrote that the TV series “was a gross misrepresentation of fact,” and that he couldn’t comment further at the moment. The university’s statement says that between now and November, the head of Macchiarini’s department will ensure that “Macchiarini uses his working hours to phase out the research he has conducted at KI” and that “the work of his research group is dismantled.”

In the light of Macchiarini’s investigation, Nobel Prize official Urban Lendhal has resigned. Reportedly, he advocated for Macchiarini’s hire by the Karolinska.

4. Elimination of senescent cell extends the lifespan of mice
Very impressive lifespan extension of mice was demonstrated in the study, published this week in Nature. Researchers from Mayo Clinic used transgene mouse model, which allowed them to eliminate senescent cell with p16(ink4a) phenotype by a drug. Using this approach, researchers were able to extend lifespan of mice up to 35%. The study yet to be reproduced, but the drug is commercialized already by Unity Biotechnology.

5. The first CRISPR genome editing company went public
US-based company Editas Medicine went public this week with $94.4M IPO.
In the light of CRISPR gene editing hype, it is a great opportunity to raise public money. Read Editas evaluation on Biotechr blog.

6. Cell culture media basics
All about cell culture media you can learn from the post on the Cell Culture Dish:

Cell culture is one of the most common and complex techniques used in the life sciences, and the media itself is a critical element for maintaining healthy, proliferating stem cells in culture. When you break it all down, all stem cell media essentially contain the same basic components: a basal medium, buffer system, glutamine, serum (or serum alternative), specific growth factors, and additional supplements. Here we look at a few of the main media components to better understand their importance and influence on cell cultures and how working with a highly pure and defined stem cell medium is key for regenerative medicine applications.

7. Impact of hypoxia on mesenchymal stromal cells regenerative function
Results of big preclinical study on primate model, which assessed impact of hypoxia on therapeutic potential of mesenchymal stromal cells (MSC), were recently published. This is very important study, because it assessed hypoxia versus ambient oxygen in cultured MSC on 49 monkeys for 9 months. The authors concluded that hypoxic conditioning of MSC worked significantly better:

HP improved the effectiveness of MSCs transplantation for the treatment of MI in nonhuman primates without increasing the occurrence of arrhythmogenic complications, which suggests that future clinical trials of HP-MSCs transplantation are warranted.

8. New methods and protocols:
Conversion of adult human peripheral blood mononuclear cells into induced neural stem cells (Stem Cell Res)
Xeno-free culture and cryopreservation of human adipose-derived MSC (Stem Cell TM)
Video bioinformatics for evaluation of process, quality and markers of pluripotent stem cells (PLoS ONE)
2D culture could be better for MSC than 3D (Stem Cells Int.)
Differentiation of human dental pulp MSC into dopaminergic neuron-like cells (J Korean Med Sci)
In vitro reconstruction of iPS cell-derived neuronal networks using microfabricated devices (PLoS ONE)
3D spheroid culture of umbilical cord tissue-derived MSC leads to enhanced paracrine function (Stem Cell Res Ther)

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