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Elasticity found to stretch stem cell growth to higher levels
By Dross at 2010-10-04 21:03
Elasticity found to stretch stem cell growth to higher levels

One of the major challenges in stem cell transplants is how to obtain sufficient numbers of these remarkably rare cells to put into patients. To help overcome this issue, research from the Centenary Institute, Royal Prince Alfred Hospital and the University of Sydney has found a way to increase the number of blood-forming stem cells when growing them outside of the body.

By using a unique stretchy surface that allows the cells to pull on it, the researchers found they could generate up to three times more stem cells than using current methods alone. Published today in the leading biotechnology journal Nature Biotechnology, lead author Professor John Rasko from the Centenary Institute and RPA Hospital announced these findings could significantly improve the outcomes of stem cell transplants.

Centenary Institute Head of Gene and Stem Cell Therapy Professor John Rasko* said: "Haemopoietic stem cells (HSCs) or blood-forming stem cells play a critical role in creating the blood cells in our body. In order to expand the number of these cells, researchers have attempted to reproduce the unique environment where stem cells live inside the body. In the past we have learnt how to use hormones and drugs to influence these niche environments but less is known about the effect of physical forces.

"Our research has, for the first time, successfully demonstrated that physical forces created by elasticity play a key role in blood-forming cell growth and may mimic the environment of stem cells inside our body. What we've discovered is that blood-forming stem cells like it to be super stretchy because, like a cat on a sofa, they like to pull on their environment."

Dr Jeff Holst, first author of the publication, combined routinely-used cell hormones with a new elastic-like substance called tropoelastin to coat the plates on which the cells were grown. The study found that growing the stem cells on tropoelastin alone could create as many stem cells as the current hormone-based methods. But the combination of the two produced a super effect with the researchers finding they could create two or three times the number of stem cells than using standard methods on their own.

Professor Tony Weiss^ is a co-author of the Nature Biotechnology paper, and Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biotechnology at the University of Sydney. Professor Weiss said: "This is a superb, world class demonstration of leading Australian science. Our inventions are now giving us precise replicas of extraordinarily versatile, natural elastic proteins. By combining our research skills, we have developed a truly impressive technology that we hope will eventually be used to improve the way bone marrow is managed for better medical outcomes."

These findings could be good news for people who receive life-saving stem cell transplants (bone marrow and cord blood transplants) to treat diseased, damaged or faulty stem cells caused by various conditions or treatments such as leukaemiaterm or chemotherapyterm.

Professor Rasko explained: "By increasing the number of stem cells we can grow outside of the body we could effectively use less bone marrow or cord blood to get the same result or use the same amount to get a much better result. For example, the small quantity of blood used from a cord blood donation often makes it suitable for small children only. Two cord blood donations are usually required to achieve safe transplants in older children or adults. However, in the future, we could use the blood from just one umbilical cord and then increase the number of stem cells to a viable level outside of the body before transplanting these life-saving cells into patients."

2 comments | 1407 reads

by gdpawel on Sat, 2010-10-16 00:45
The very first federally-approved human embryonic stem cell trial went underway. A partially-paralyzed patient with an acute spinal cord injury was injected with stem cells, according to Geron, the biomedical company that developed the cells.

The stem cells came from human embryos left over from fertility treatments and were converted into nerve cells before being injected into the damaged area of the spinal cord. Researchers grew them from embryos in 1998. The FDA approved the start of the privately-funded safety trial in July.

If successful, the treatment would repair nerve cells around the spine, potentially restoring some movement to the patient. The procedure took place at Shepherd Center, a hospital and research center for spinal cord and brain injury in Atlanta, GA.

This phase I trial is primarily intended to evaluate the treatment's safety. In the safety trial, patients will receive injections of about 2 million cells grown specifically to resemble precursors to spinal cord cells, within seven to fourteen days of injuries to their middle back, or thoracic vertebrae.

Geron has developed a way to culture and purify oligodendrocyte progenitor cells (primitive neuronal cells) from human embryonic stem cells (h-ESCs). These precursor cells are coaxed in vitro into developing into one of various mature cell types, including neurons.

Stem cells are pleuripotent - they have the capacity to differentiate into specialized, distinct cell forms depending on nearby cells and stimulatory molecules in their environment. Mature cells have already decided what kinds of tissue they'll grow into (part of an eye, heart, liver, nervous system of any other body part).

The purpose of stem cell therapy for spinal cord injury is to provide the wounded spine with fresh, primitive cells that might grow into neurons and replace those that have been damaged.

The patient's immune systems will be suppressed by drugs for months to help prevent rejection, although Geron has maintained that the spinal precursor cells used in the study show a broad ability not to antagonize the immune system.

The added patient protection is response to fears that the injected cells would grow into tumors or the patient would die from the immune suppression. However, this particular patient is going to be a paraplegic, absent a therapeutic stem cell effect.

Source: Geron Bio-Med Limited

by gdpawel on Tue, 2010-11-23 01:50
The U.S. government has approved the second-ever clinical trial in people of a treatment using embryonic stem cells — this time for a rare disease that causes serious vision loss.

The company developing the therapy, Advanced Cell Technology (ACT), a biotechnology company, said the research should begin early next year, following the green light from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Scientists hope to use stem cells to create a variety of tissues for transplant. But human embryos have to be destroyed to harvest those cells, which has made their use controversial.

The trial will examine the safety of a therapy for Stargardt's Macular Degeneration, which affects only about 30,000 Americans. But the company hopes the same approach will work for similar and more common eye disorders like age-related macular degeneration, which affects millions.

Stargardt is an inherited disorder that attacks central vision used for tasks like reading and recognizing faces. Some patients go totally blind, even losing peripheral vision, while others are severely impaired and can only perceive light or see their hands moving in front of their faces.

The disease typically starts in adolescence. The key problem is that impaired scavenger cells fail to remove toxic byproducts from the eye, allowing them to build up and kill other cells. There is no proven treatment.

In the trial, 12 individuals at US medical centers in Massachusetts, New Jersey and Oregon, will be treated with healthy scavenger cells, created in a laboratory from human embryonic stem cells. This early phase of the research is primarily to test the safety of various doses, injecting only one eye of each patient.

"We're also hoping to see some improvement in visual acuity, but that's a bonus," said Dr. Robert Lanza, ACT's chief scientific officer.

Macular degeneration has been seen as stem cell therapy's low-hanging fruit because the cells that need replacing are so accessible, both for delivering the treatment and for monitoring its effects. The eye is also an immune-privileged site, meaning that injections won't elicit an immune response.

Source: Advanced Cell Technology

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