Author archives: David Prentice

Beating Heart Cells from Mouse iPS Cells

by David Prentice

July 15, 2008

Japanese and German groups are reporting that they have produced functioning heart cells from mouse induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells. Both reports are published online ahead of print in the journal Circulation.

The two groups produced various cardiac cell types with the iPS cells, including beating cardiac cells in the lab dish. Both reports note that the iPS-derived cardiac cells were comparable to those obtained from mouse embryonic stem cells.

Adult Stem Cells for Muscular Dystrophy

by David Prentice

July 10, 2008

A report in tomorrow’s issue of the journal Cell (now online) describes how adult stem cells from muscle were used to restore muscle in mice with muscular dystrophy (also see second press release.)

Researchers with Joslin Diabetes Center and Harvard University used specific markers (cell surface tags) to isolate adult stem cells from mouse skeletal muscle. The identified cells are a subset of “satellite cells”, which normally participate in growth and repair of muscle. The cells were then injected into a mouse model of muscular dystrophy. The injected cells contributed up to 94% of muscle fibers, providing therapeutic value by restoring muscle structure and function in the mice. The added adult stem cells also formed a reservoir of new satellite cells (repair stem cells) in the muscle, and could participate in further repair if there was subsequent injury to the muscle.

Senior author Amy Wagers of Harvard noted “Our work shows proof-of-concept that purified muscle stem cells can be used in therapy,” and that these adult stem cells “provide a robust source of muscle replacement cells and a viable therapeutic option for the treatment of muscle degenerative disorders.”

The research team is now working on isolating the same adult stem cells from human muscle.

Stem Cells and Catfish

by David Prentice

July 10, 2008

If the title sounds fishy, it’s not angling for a story about using fish stem cells. Just reeling in another story about real people that have been successfully treated with adult stem cells, the Durbin brothers of Louisiana.

Craig was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, and Glenn with Hodgkin’s disease. Both credit their winning fight over these cancers with life-saving, stem cell transplants.

This little tidbit of information is tucked near the beginning of the story, the majority of which is about Craig landing a state record 55-pound catfish, just 3 pounds off the world record. Fishing enthusiasts can land the details of the catch in the full article.

Spray Gun Shoots Adult Stem Cells Onto Wound

by David Prentice

July 9, 2008

One goal of the Armed Forces Institute of Regenerative Medicine is a way to quickly seal battlefield wounds and promote more rapid healing. One method already being tested is a skin spray gun; it sprays skin stem cells onto a wound. The technique also utilizes an innovative wound dressing that acts as a bioreactor, nurturing the sprayed-on cells. The method, which uses the patient’s own cells, has already been successfully tested on 16 burn patients at the Berlin Burn Center, providing faster and more efficient healing than typical skin grafts. The patient’s own pigment cells were included in the mix, so the new skin appeared natural.

Lab-Cultured Steak, Anyone?

by David Prentice

July 9, 2008

While Star Trek replicators are still not a reality, there are proposals to produce lab-grown meat as a substitute for the footed-variety as a source. New Scientist notes today that lab-grown meat could ease food shortages, and other advantages are supposedly that in vitro cultured meat could be healthier for people and for the environment.

Sound far-fetched? In April, PETA started a $1 million competition for the first person to produce lab-grown chicken, and also in April scientists held the First International In Vitro Meat Symposium. You might also want to read this article in Christian Science Monitor (though I’m a bit suspicious, the author is Gregory Lamb.)

Loaves, Fishes, and Human Embryos

by David Prentice

July 9, 2008

Belgian scientists reported that they could split 4-cell human embryos into individual cells and get complete embryos from each individual cell. In a talk at the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology meeting, they described the experiment:

Three, good quality 4-cell stage embryos were split into 12 single blastomeres and allowed to grow in vitro to produce twelve morulas that were cultured in the conventional way for hESC derivation. From these twelve, one resulted in a stable hESC line.

They say this means that each cell at the 4-cell stage is equivalent; their next step is to see if they can get four hESC lines from a single 4-cell embryo. They do note that, “We need to determine whether the removal of one cell at the 4-cell stage impairs the capacity of the embryo to develop into a healthy child.”

Interestingly, the result is billed as a technique that “may lessen ethical concerns”. Apparently they mean that manipulating an embryo earlier in his/her life is better, assuming the 3-cell embryo can proceed to develop normally. But their results also point out that the single cell removed is totipotent, able to form a complete embryo on its own. This just multiplies the ethical problems rather than lessens them.

Cord Blood for Leukemia, and Much More

by David Prentice

July 9, 2008

In the final part of the 3-part series on cord blood, reporter Gretchen Cuda of Cleveland station WCPN talks with a patient who was treated for leukemia with cord blood stem cells. As Cuda points out, “In less than two decades, cord blood transplants from unrelated donors have nearly tripled the number of adults who survive Leukemia.”

Also interviewed was Dr. Mary Laughlin, renowned cord blood researcher, who noted:

These cells not only cure the leukemia or life-threatening blood disorder, we now appreciate that that they participate in repair of all the organs in the body.”

She goes on to say that in fact, in some children, cord blood stem cells have been found to comprise as much as a third of the heart -proof that these stem cells are capable of much more than previously thought possible. As a result, a number of promising clinical trials are being conducted to explore the regenerative potential of cord blood in treating cerebral palsy, diabetes and brain injury.

One great need is banking more cord blood, especially from minority populations, so that everyone can have access to a life-saving cord blood stem cell transplant. The story also has links to the Cleveland Cord Blood Center and New York Blood Center, where more information on cord blood banking and transplants can be found.

Getting a Lungful of Stem Cells

by David Prentice

July 9, 2008

Treating lung diseases is a high priority—chronic lung diseases are the fourth leading cause of death in the U.S. Now a Canadian team has successfully treated a rare, progressive lung disease, pulmonary hypertension, using the patient’s own genetically-modified adult stem cells.

The company Osiris has also started a Phase II clinical trial using its adult stem cell product, Prochymal, for moderate to severe chronic obstructive lung disease.

Researchers at Vermont College of Medicine have also shown that cord blood stem cells has the potential to regenerate lung tissue.

Cord Blood Keeps Delivering

by David Prentice

July 8, 2008

Anticipating just a few of the therapies that might be mentioned by the Cleveland NPR station in their Wednesday story, sickle cell anemia should be at the top of the list. In many cases now, cord blood stem cell transplant is considered a “cure”, or the next thing to it.

Cord blood, along with bone marrow adult stem cells, was also recently used at the University of Minnesota to treat epidermolysis bullosa, a nasty fatal condition where the skin and linings of the digestive system and lungs are extremely sensitive and tear easily.

Cord blood stem cells have also been proposed for treatment of cerebral palsy and other neurological conditions. Dr. Joanne Kurtzberg of Duke University has pioneered many of these treatments for children, including for cerebral palsy.

U.S. Still the Global Scientific Leader

by David Prentice

July 8, 2008

Nature Medicine has an editorial this month on global scientific leadership. (the link takes you to the abstract, the sum total of which is below; you might need a subscription to read the whole article, but try the Full Text link to see.)

Some analysts believe that the economic hegemony of the US is on its last legs, but the same does not seem to be true of its scientific supremacy.”

The bottom line: despite all the moaning and hand-wringing, the U.S. still leads the world in scientific research, and that includes comparisons to scientific heavyweights such as the U.K., China, and Japan.

This bottom line comes from a Rand study, “U.S. Competitiveness in Science and Technology” (downloadable as a free pdf.) The report and editorial note that while the U.S. leadership should not be taken for granted, the United States continues to lead the world in science and technology and has kept pace or grown faster than other nations.

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