From pluripotency to totipotency

While it is already possible to obtain in vitro pluripotent cells (ie, cells capable of generating all tissues of an embryo) from any cell type, researchers from Maria-Elena Torres-Padilla’s team have pushed the limits of science even further. They managed to obtain totipotent cells with the same characteristics as those of the earliest embryonic stages and with even more interesting properties. Obtained in collaboration with Juanma Vaquerizas from the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Biomedicine (Münster, Germany), these results are published on 3rd of August in the journal Nature Structural & Molecular Biology.

Just after fertilization, when the embryo is comprised of only 1 or 2 cells, cells are “totipotent“, that is to say, capable of producing an entire embryo as well as the placenta and umbilical cord that accompany it. During the subsequent rounds of cell division, cells rapidly lose this plasticity and become “pluripotent”. At the blastocyst stage (about thirty cells), the so-called “embryonic stem cells” can differentiate into any tissue, although they alone cannot give birth to a foetus anymore. Pluripotent cells then continue to specialise and form the various tissues of the body through a process called cellular differentiation.

For some years, it has been possible to re-programme differentiated cells into pluripotent ones, but not into totipotent cells. Now, the team of Maria-Elena Torres-Padilla has studied the characteristics of totipotent cells of the embryo and found factors capable of inducing a totipotent-like state.

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Programming adult stem cells to treat muscular dystrophy and more by mimicking nature

"Inducing Stem Cell Myogenesis Using NanoScript" ACS Nano

Stem cells hold great potential for addressing a variety of conditions from spinal cord injuries to cancer, but they can be difficult to control. Scientists are now reporting in the journal ACS Nano a new way to mimic the body’s natural approach to programming these cells. Using this method, they successfully directed adult stem cells to turn specifically into muscle, which could potentially help treat patients with muscular dystrophy.

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Scientists stumble across unknown stem-cell type

‘Region-selective’ pluripotent cells raise possibility of growing human organs in animals.

Sara Reardon

06 May 2015

 A newly discovered type of stem cell could help provide a model for early human development — and, eventually, allow human organs to be grown in large animals such as pigs or cows for research or therapeutic purposes.

Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte, a developmental biologist at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, California, and his colleagues stumbled across a previously unknown variety of pluripotent cell — which can give rise to any type of tissue — while attempting to graft human pluripotent stem cells into mouse embryos.

Scientists previously knew about two other types of pluripotent stem cells, but growing them in large numbers or guiding them to mature into specific types of adult cells has proven difficult. Writing in Nature, Izpisua Belmonte and his colleagues report a type of pluripotent cell that is easier to grow in vitro and grafts into an embryo when injected into the right spot. They call them region-selective pluripotent stem cells (rsPSCs).

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Stem cell advance yields mature heart muscle cells

by Renee Meiller

A team of University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers has induced human embryonic stem cells (hESC) to differentiate toward pure-population, mature heart muscle cells, or cardiomyocytes.

A substrate patterned with a precisely sized series of channels played a critical role in the advance.

Published online in the journal Biomaterials, the research could open the door to advances in areas that include tissue engineering and drug discovery and testing.

Researchers currently can differentiate hESC into immature heart muscle cells. Those cells, however, don't develop the robust internal structures — repeating sections of muscle cells called sarcomeres — that enable cardiomyocytes to produce the contracting force that allows the heart to pump blood. Other cell components that allow heart muscle cells to communicate and work together also are less developed in immature cardiomyocytes.

One barrier to efforts to produce more mature cells is the culture surface itself; hESC are notoriously finicky. "It's really hard to culture stem cells effectively and to provide them with an environment that's going to help them to thrive and differentiate in the way you want," says lead author Wendy Crone, a professor of engineering physics, biomedical engineering and materials science and engineering at UW-Madison.

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Steering stem cells with magnets

Quinn Eastman

July 16, 2013

Magnets could be a tool for directing stem cells’ healing powers to treat conditions such as heart disease or vascular disease.

By feeding stem cells tiny particles made of magnetized iron oxide, scientists at Emory and Georgia Tech can then use magnets to attract the cells to a particular location in a mouse's body after intravenous injection.

[...]

The type of cells used in the study, mesenchymal stem cells, are not embryonic stem cells. Mesenchymal stem cells can be readily obtained from adult tissues such as bone marrow or fat. They are capable of becoming bone, fat and cartilage cells, but not other types of cell such as muscle or brain. They secrete a variety of nourishing and anti-inflammatory factors, which could make them valuable tools for treating conditions such as cardiovascular disease or autoimmune disorders.

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Researchers create the inner ear from stem cells, opening potential for new treatments

July 10, 2013

Indiana University scientists have transformed mouse embryonic stem cells into key structures of the inner ear. The discovery provides new insights into the sensory organ's developmental process and sets the stage for laboratory models of disease, drug discovery and potential treatments for hearing loss and balance disorders.

A research team led by Eri Hashino, Ph.D., Ruth C. Holton Professor of Otolaryngology at Indiana University School of Medicine, reported that by using a three-dimensional cell culture method, they were able to coax stem cells to develop into inner-ear sensory epithelia—containing hair cells, supporting cells and neurons—that detect sound, head movements and gravity. The research was reportedly online Wednesday in the journal Nature.

Previous attempts to "grow" inner-ear hair cells in standard cell culture systems have worked poorly in part because necessary cues to develop hair bundles—a hallmark of sensory hair cells and a structure critically important for detecting auditory or vestibular signals—are lacking in the flat cell-culture dish. But, Dr. Hashino said, the team determined that the cells needed to be suspended as aggregates in a specialized culture medium, which provided an environment more like that found in the body during early development.

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Study Challenges Long-held Assumption of Gene Expression in Embryonic Stem Cells

July 3, 2013

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – Whitehead Institute researchers have determined that the transcription factor Nanog, which plays a critical role in the self-renewal of embryonic stem cells, is expressed in a manner similar to other pluripotency markers. This finding contradicts the field’s presumptions about this important gene and its role in the differentiation of embryonic stem cells.

A large body of research has reported that Nanog is allelically regulated—that is, only one copy of the gene is expressed at any given time—and fluctuations in its expression are responsible for the differences seen in individual embryonic stem (ES) cells’ predilection to differentiate into more specialized cells. These studies relied on cells that had a genetic marker or reporter inserted in the DNA upstream of the Nanog gene. This latest research, published in this week’s edition of the journal Cell Stem Cell, suggests that results from studies based on this approach could be called into question.

To quantify the variations in Nanog expression, Dina Faddah, a graduate student in the lab of Whitehead Institute Founding Member Rudolf Jaenisch, looked at hundreds of individual mouse ES cells with reporters inserted immediately downstream of the Nanog gene. One Nanog allele had a green reporter, while the other had a red reporter, allowing Faddah to determine which of the two alleles was being expressed.

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Groups attack Wisconsin Alumni Foundation's embryonic stem cell patent

By Kathleen Gallagher of the Journal Sentinel

Two nonprofit groups are continuing their challenge to one of the Wisconsin Alumni Foundation's key embryonic stem cell patents by asking a federal appeals court to invalidate it.

The Public Patent Foundation, based in New York, and Consumer Watchdog, Santa Monica, Calif., filed a brief Tuesday with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. The Public Patent Foundation was one of the successful challengers in the recently decided case in which the Supreme Court ruled that genes cannot be patented.

"WARF's broad patent on all human embryonic stem cells is invalid for a number of reasons and we are confident the Court of Appeals will agree," said Dan Ravicher, the foundation's executive director. The groups believe that all researchers should have unfettered access to embryonic stem cells, which scientists believe could help treat many diseases.

A WARF spokeswoman declined to comment, saying the foundation needed to review the filing with its attorneys.

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Waisman scientists model human disease in stem cells

by David Tenenbaum

 

Many scientists use animals to model human diseases. Mice can be obese or display symptoms of Parkinson's disease. Rats get Alzheimer's and diabetes.

But animal models are seldom perfect, and so scientists are looking at a relatively new type of stem cell, called the induced pluripotent stem cell (iPS cell), that can be grown into specialized cells that become useful models for human disease.

IPS cells are usually produced by reprogramming a skin sample into a primitive form that is able to develop into all of the specialized cells in the body. In the laboratories at the Waisman Center at UW-Madison, scientists are growing iPS cells into models of disorders caused by defective nerve cells. The technology depends on work pioneered over the past decade or so by Su-Chun Zhang, a neuroscientist who leads the iPS Core at Waisman, which also produces cells for other investigators on campus.

The multidisciplinary Waisman Center, now in its 40th year, combines treatment with clinical and basic research to address many of the most complex and disabling disorders of development.

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CSIRO develops test to improve stem cell safety

The breakthrough is a significant step in improving the quality of iPS cells and identifying unwanted cells that can form tumours. The test also determines how stable iPS cells are when grown in the lab.

Dr Andrew Laslett and his team have spent the last five years working on the project. The research has focused on comparing different types of iPS cells with human embryonic stem cells. iPS cells are now the most commonly used pluripotent stem cell type for research.

"The test we have developed allows us to easily identify unsafe iPS cells. Ensuring the safety of these cell lines is paramount and we hope this test will become a routine screen as part of developing safe and effective iPS-based cell therapies," says Dr Laslett.

Using their test method, Dr Laslett's team has shown that certain ways of making iPS cells carry more risks. When the standard technique is used, which relies on viruses to permanently change the DNA of a cell, unwanted tumours are more likely to form. In comparison, cells made using methods which do not alter cell DNA, do not form tumours.

Dr Laslett hopes the study and the new test method will help to raise the awareness and importance of stem cell safety and lead to improvements in quality control globally.

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Cloning Breakthrough Highlights An Alternative Source For Stem Cells

The recent breakthrough in human cloning announced by scientists at Oregon Health and Science University brings to light an alternative source of pluripotent stem cells that may now get more attention.

Altered Nuclear Transfer (ANT), like Somatic Cell Nuclear Transfer (cloning), utilizes the nucleus of a somatic cell, to swap into that of a human egg in order ultimately to generate patient specific pluripotent stem cells.

But in the ANT process, scientists alter the nuclear make-up of the cell or the egg prior to transfer, ensuring that no viable human embryo is possible even in principle from the get-go.

The resulting organism can generate robust pluripotent stem cells, like embryonic stem cells, but without the ethical implications that accompany the creation and destruction of human embryos involved in the SCNT process.

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Engineered stem cell advance points toward treatment for ALS

by David Tenenbaum

MADISON, Wis. — Transplantation of human stem cells in an experiment conducted at the University of Wisconsin-Madison improved survival and muscle function in rats used to model ALS, a nerve disease that destroys nerve control of muscles, causing death by respiratory failure.

ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) is sometimes called “Lou Gehrig’s disease." According to the ALS Association, the condition strikes about 5,600 Americans each year. Only about half of patients are alive three years after diagnosis.

In work recently completed at the UW School of Veterinary Medicine, Masatoshi Suzuki, an assistant professor of comparative biosciences, and his colleagues used adult stem cells from human bone marrow and genetically engineered the cells to produce compounds called growth factors that can support damaged nerve cells.

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UW study is key step toward treating disease with stem cells

By Mark Johnson of the Journal Sentinel

In a powerful demonstration of reprogramming's potential to treat human disease and injury, scientists at University of Wisconsin-Madison turned a rhesus monkey's skin cells into early brain cells, then implanted them successfully in the monkey's brain.

The experiment, published Thursday in the journal Cell Reports, worked so well that the reprogrammed cells grafted onto the brain and appeared indistinguishable from the cells already there. Scientists were able to identify the new cells only because they had been tagged with a glowing green fluorescent protein.

Before being injected with their own cells, the three monkeys in the study were engineered to simulate the effects of Parkinson's Disease.

Although the experiment was carried out on monkeys, the results suggest that such an approach could work in humans, raising the possibility that doctors might someday replace the neurons lost to Parkinson's or the cells damaged in spinal cord injuries.

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Court lifts cloud over embryonic stem cells

But research on induced stem cells may be the real winner.

Monya Baker

15 January 2013

he US Supreme Court’s decision last week to throw out a lawsuit that would have blocked federal funding of all research on human embryonic stem cells cleared the gloom that has hung over the field for more than three years. Yet the biggest boost from the decision might go not to work on embryonic stem (ES) cells, but to studies of their upstart cousins, induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells, which are created by ‘reprogramming’ adult cells into a stem-cell-like state.

At first glance, iPS-cell research needs no help. Researchers flocked to the field soon after a recipe for deriving the cells from adult mouse cells was announced in 2006, partly because this offered a way to skirt the thorny ethical issues raised by extracting cells from human embryos. But the real allure of iPS cells was the promise of genetically matched tissues. Adult cells taken from a patient could be used to create stem cells that would, in turn, generate perfectly matched specialized tissues — replacement neurons, say — for cell therapy. Although the number of published papers from iPS-cell research has not yet caught up with that of ES-cell work (see ‘Inducing a juggernaut’), US funding for each approach is now roughly matched at about US$120 million a year.

But, as iPS cells crop up in ever more labs, ES cells — generally cheaper, better behaved and backed by an extra decade’s worth of data — promise to have an important supporting role. Ever since iPS cells were described, researchers have been trying to understand just how similar they are to ES cells. iPS cells begin with different patterns of gene expression, and they can also acquire mutations during the reprogramming process, which means that every iPS cell must be thoroughly evaluated before it can be used in any study. “Human ES cells will always be the standard to which other cells will be compared,” says Roger Pedersen, who studies how stem cells retain embryo-like states at the University of Cambridge, UK.

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Brain cells made from urine

Human excreta could be a powerful source of cells to study disease, bypassing some of the problems of using stem cells.

Monya Baker

Some of the waste that humans flush away every day could become a powerful source of brain cells to study disease, and may even one day be used in therapies for neurodegenerative diseases. Scientists have found a relatively straightforward way to persuade the cells discarded in human urine to turn into valuable neurons.

The technique, described online in a study in Nature Methods this week, does not involve embryonic stem cells. These come with serious drawbacks when transplanted, such as the risk of developing tumours. Instead, the method uses ordinary cells present in urine, and transforms them into neural progenitor cells — the precursors of brain cells. These precursor cells could help researchers to produce cells tailored to individuals more quickly and from more patients than current methods.

Researchers routinely reprogram cultured skin and blood cells into induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells, which can go on to form any cell in the body. But urine is a much more accessible source.

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Scientists create 'endless supply' of myelin-forming cells

In a new study appearing this month in the Journal of Neuroscience, researchers have unlocked the complex cellular mechanics that instruct specific brain cells to continue to divide. This discovery overcomes a significant technical hurdle to potential human stem cell therapies; ensuring that an abundant supply of cells is available to study and ultimately treat people with diseases.

"One of the major factors that will determine the viability of stem cell therapies is access to a safe and reliable supply of cells," said University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) neurologist Steve Goldman, M.D., Ph.D., lead author of the study. "This study demonstrates that – in the case of certain populations of brain cells – we now understand the cell biology and the mechanisms necessary to control cell division and generate an almost endless supply of cells."

The study focuses on cells called glial progenitor cells (GPCs) that are found in the white matter of the human brain. These stem cells give rise to two cells found in the central nervous system: oligodendrocytes, which produce myelin, the fatty tissue that insulates the connections between cells; and astrocytes, cells that are critical to the health and signaling function of oligodendrocytes as well as neurons.

Damage to myelin lies at the root of a long list of diseases, such as multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, and a family of deadly childhood diseases called pediatric leukodystrophies. The scientific community believes that regenerative medicine – in the form of cell transplantation – holds great promise for treating myelin disorders. Goldman and his colleagues, for example, have demonstrated in numerous animal model studies that transplanted GPCs can proliferate in the brain and repair damaged myelin.

However, one of the barriers to moving forward with human treatments for myelin disease has been the difficulty of creating a plentiful supply of necessary cells, in this case GPCs. Scientists have been successful at getting these cells to divide and multiply in the lab, but only for limited periods of time, resulting in the generation of limited numbers of usable cells.

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Mayo Clinic Finds Way to Weed Out Problem Stem Cells, Making Therapy Safer

ROCHESTER, Minn. — Mayo Clinic researchers have found a way to detect and eliminate potentially troublemaking stem cells to make stem cell therapy safer. Induced Pluripotent Stem cells, also known as iPS cells, are bioengineered from adult tissues to have properties of embryonic stem cells, which have the unlimited capacity to differentiate and grow into any desired types of cells, such as skin, brain, lung and heart cells. However, during the differentiation process, some residual pluripotent or embryonic-like cells may remain and cause them to grow into tumors.

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Stem cells can become anything -- but not without this protein, U-M scientists find

In the current issue of the prestigious journal Cell Stem Cell, researcher Yali Dou, Ph.D., and her team show the crucial role of a protein called Mof in preserving the ‘stem-ness’ of stem cells, and priming them to become specialized cells in mice.

Their results show that Mof plays a key role in the “epigenetics” of stem cells -- that is, helping stem cells read and use their DNA. One of the key questions in stem cell research is what keeps stem cells in a kind of eternal youth, and then allows them to start “growing up” to be a specific type of tissue.

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Adult stem cells from liposuction used to create blood vessels in the lab

NEW ORLEANS — Adult stem cells extracted during liposuction can be used to grow healthy new small-diameter blood vessels for use in heart bypass surgery and other procedures, according to new research presented at the American Heart Association’s Basic Cardiovascular Sciences 2012 Scientific Sessions.

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New method generates cardiac muscle patches from stem cells

A cutting-edge method developed at the University of Michigan Center for Arrhythmia Research successfully uses stem cells to create heart cells capable of mimicking the heart’s crucial squeezing action.

The cells displayed activity similar to most people’s resting heart rate. At 60 beats per minute, the rhythmic electrical impulse transmission of the engineered cells in the U-M study is 10 times faster than in most other reported stem cell studies.

An image of the electrically stimulated cardiac cells is displayed on the cover of the current issue of Circulation Research, a publication of the American Heart Association.

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Vein Grown From Her Own Stem Cells Saves 10-Year-Old Swedish Girl

BY AMBER MOORE | JUNE 14, 2012

A ten year old girl became the first person in the world to get a major blood vessel replaced by one grown using her own stem cells.

The 10-year-old from Sweden had a blockage of a vein from her liver. The doctors decided to give her a new vein instead of a liver transplant or giving her a vein from her own body, Associated Press reported.

The team from University of Gothenburg first took 9 cm vein segment from a dead man and stripped all living cells from it, leaving behind only a protein structure. They later reconstructed the vein by using cells from the girl's own bone marrow. The new graft was then put in the girl's body two weeks later.

The surgery was successful. The girl recovered well with no major complications. In a year her height increased from 137cm to 143cm and weight increased by about 5 kg or about 11 pounds, according to a press release.

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Nanotube therapy takes aim at breast cancer stem cells

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – Feb. 9, 2012 – Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center researchers have again proven that injecting multiwalled carbon nanotubes (MWCNTs) into tumors and heating them with a quick, 30-second laser treatment can kill them.

The results of the first effort involving kidney tumors was published in 2009, but now they've taken the science and directed it at breast cancer tumors, specifically the tumor initiating cancer stem cells. These stem cells are hard to kill because they don't divide very often and many anti-cancer strategies are directed at killing the cells that divide frequently.

The Wake Forest Baptist research findings are reported online ahead of April print publication in the journal Biomaterials. The research is a result of a collaborative effort between Wake Forest School of Medicine, the Wake Forest University Center for Nanotechnology and Molecular Materials, and Rice University. Lead investigator and professor of biochemistry Suzy V. Torti, Ph.D., of Wake Forest Baptist, said the breast cancer stem cells tend to be resistant to drugs and radiotherapy, so targeting these particular cells is of great interest in the scientific community.

"They are tough. These are cells that don't divide very often. They just sort of sit there, but when they receive some sort of trigger – and that's not really well understood – it's believed they can migrate to other sites and start a metastasis somewhere else," Torti explained. "Heat-based cancer treatments represent a promising approach for the clinical management of cancers, including breast cancer."

Link to the study.

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Hormel Institute study makes key finding in stem cell self-renewal

MINNEAPOLIS / ST. PAUL (02/06/2012) —A University of Minnesota-led research team has proposed a mechanism for the control of whether embryonic stem cells continue to proliferate and stay stem cells, or differentiate into adult cells like brain, liver or skin.

The work has implications in two areas. In cancer treatment, it is desirable to inhibit cell proliferation. But to grow adult stem cells for transplantation to victims of injury or disease, it would be desirable to sustain proliferation until a sufficient number of cells have been produced to make a usable organ or tissue.

The study gives researchers a handle on how those two competing processes might be controlled. It was performed at the university's Hormel Institute in Austin, Minn., using mouse stem cells. The researchers, led by Hormel Institute Executive Director Zigang Dong and Associate Director Ann M. Bode, have published a report in the journal Nature: Structure and Molecular Biology.

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Embryonic stem cells appear to restore some vision to legally blind patient

By Rob Stein and David Brown

For the first time, an experimental treatment made from human embryonic stem cells has shown evidence of helping someone, partially restoring sight to two people suffering from slowly progressing forms of blindness.

Although the purpose of the experiment was to test the safety of stem cells injected into the eye, both patients “had measurable improvement in their vision that persisted through the duration of the study,” said Robert Lanza, chief scientific officer at Advanced Cell Technology, the Massachusetts biotech company that sponsored the closely watched experiment.

The operations in July on two Southern California women yielded practical results. One of them no longer needs a large magnifying glass to read and can reportedly thread a needle. The other has begun to go shopping on her own.

Reported online in the Lancet on Monday, the project used the cells under highly favorable conditions not likely to exist with many diseases.

The cells were transplanted into the eye, an organ in which the chance of immune rejection is low. The complex, 10-layer architecture of the retina was intact, so the cells were not asked to perform a heroic act of reconstruction. The researchers were able to monitor progress — and watch for complications — in real time by looking into the eyes.

Lanza cautioned that the findings are preliminary, the improvements could disappear and complications could emerge. Nevertheless, he thinks the two cases will provide useful lessons for the field.

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A Shot of Young Stem Cells Made Rapidly Aging Mice Live Longer and Healthier

PITTSBURGH, Jan. 3, 2011 – Mice bred to age too quickly seemed to have sipped from the fountain of youth after scientists at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine injected them with stem cell-like progenitor cells derived from the muscle of young, healthy animals. Instead of becoming infirm and dying early as untreated mice did, animals that got the stem/progenitor cells improved their health and lived two to three times longer than expected, according to findings published in the Jan. 3 edition of Nature Communications.

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UW scientists grow neurons that integrate into brain

By Mark Johnson of the Journal Sentinel

Scientists at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have grown human embryonic stem cells into neurons that appear capable of adapting themselves to the brain's machinery by sending and receiving messages from other cells, raising hopes that medicine may one day use this tool to treat patients with such disorders as Parkinson's and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, commonly known as Lou Gehrig's disease.

Researchers inserted the human cells into the brains of mice where they successfully integrated themselves into the wiring. Then the UW team applied a new technology, using light to stimulate the human cells and watching as they in turn activated mouse brain cells.

In a lab dish, the brain cells or neurons began firing simultaneously "like a power surge lighting up a building," said Jason Weick, an assistant scientist at UW who worked on the study published online Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Weick said the use of light stimulation, called optogenetics, raises the possibility of modifying transplanted brain cells, in effect turning them up or down like the dimmer control on a light.

"You can imagine that if the transplanted cells don't behave as they should, you could use this system to modulate them using light," said Su-Chun Zhang, a UW professor of neuroscience and one of the authors of the new study.

For years, scientists have talked of the possibility of growing neurons in a dish to replace damaged cells in the brain, but there always have been questions about whether the transplanted cells could become fully functional.

But the new work at UW suggests the idea may be poised to make the transition from theory to reality.

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Hype Aside, Hope for Stem Cell Therapy May Be Emerging From Hibernation

Two small studies of cardiac stem cells for the treatment of heart failure have shown promise, but ABC News, CBS News and other media outlets are throwing around words like “medical breakthrough” and “heart failure cure.” ABC News correspondent Richard Besser was so enthusiastic that anchor Diane Sawyer commented that she had never seen him “so excited.” The first author of one of the studies, Roberto Bolli, said the work could represent “the biggest advance in cardiology in my lifetime.”

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Tommy Thompson pushes for focus on adult stem cells

Speech at Vatican differs from earlier push for embryonic research

By Mark Johnson and Kathleen Gallagher of the Journal Sentinel

A decade after he helped persuade a president to allow funding of some embryonic stem cell research, Tommy Thompson, the former Wisconsin governor and presumptive U.S. Senate candidate, paid a visit to the Vatican on Wednesday to deliver a very different message.

In Rome, Thompson, who is Roman Catholic, portrayed himself as a strong proponent of adult stem cells - cells that aren't culled from embryos - while appearing to brush aside the embryonic stem cell research he once defended.

"The best ideas I've come across have always been the simplest ones," according to prepared remarks furnished by Thompson's spokesman. "And frankly, I just don't believe that man can engineer something superior to what the good Lord has already given us. That's what I love about adult stem cells - we're using the divine wisdom inside each of us to supercharge our bodies and wipe away disease.

"And as we do this, not a single human embryo is destroyed."

Speaking at a three-day conference jointly organized by the Vatican's Pontifical Council for Culture and the U.S.-based Stem for Life Foundations, which promotes adult stem cell research, Thompson called on President Barack Obama to create a commission of private sector business leaders to recommend ways to coordinate discovering and funding of therapies that use adult stem cells.

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Vatican signs deal to collaborate on adult stem cell research

The unusual agreement with NeoStem allows the church, which opposes embryonic stem cell use, to be seen as taking a constructive role in one of the most promising areas of medical research.

By Mitchell Landsberg,

Los Angeles Times October 20, 2011

As chairman and chief executive of her own company, Dr. Robin Smith is a significant player in the world of biopharmaceutical products and research. Self-confident, poised and well traveled, she is used to dealing with movers and shakers.

But when she negotiated an agreement with her company's latest business partner, she didn't deal directly with the top executive.

He is, after all, the pope.

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EU bans patents of stem cells if embryo destroyed

AFP - Europe's top court on Tuesday banned researchers from patenting any process to extract stem cells when it leads to the destruction of a human embryo.

In a ruling that could affect medical research, the EU Court of Justice court said the use of human embryos "for therapeutic or diagnostic purposes which are applied to the human embryo and are useful to it is patentable."

"But their use for purposes of scientific research is not patentable," the court ruled.

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Precision with Stem Cells a Step Forward for Treating M.S., Other Diseases

Scientists have improved upon their own previous world-best efforts to pluck out just the right stem cells to address the brain problem at the core of multiple sclerosis and a large number of rare, fatal children’s diseases.

Details of how scientists isolated and directed stem cells from the human brain to become oligodendrocytes – the type of brain cell that makes myelin, a crucial fatty material that coats neurons and allows them to signal effectively – were published online and in the October issue of Nature Biotechnology by scientists at the University of Rochester Medical Center and the University at Buffalo.

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Stem cells from cord blood could help repair damaged heart muscle

At least 20 million people survive heart attacks and strokes every year, according to World Health Organisation estimates, but many have poor life expectancy and require continual costly clinical care. The use of patient's own stem cells may repair heart attacks, although their benefit may be limited due to scarce availability and ageing. The researchers have found heart muscle-like cells grown using stem cells from human umbilical cord blood could help repair heart muscle cells damaged by a heart attack.

The study, led by Professor Raimondo Ascione, Chair of Cardiac Surgery & Translational Research in the School of Clinical Sciences at the University of Bristol, is published online in Stem Cell Reviews & Reports.

The study, funded by the British Heart Foundation (BHF) and the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), found that it is possible to expand up to seven-fold, in vitro, rare stem cells (called CD133+) from human cord blood and then grow them into cardiac muscle cells.

The findings could have major implications on future treatment following a heart attack given that cells obtained from adults following a heart attack may be less functional due to ageing and risk factors.

Professor Ascione said: "We believe our study represents a significant advancement and overcomes the technical hurdle of deriving cardiac muscle-type cells from human cord blood. The method we have found has the attributes of simplicity and consistency. This will permit more robust manipulation of these cells towards better cell homing and cardiac repair in patients with myocardial infarction.

"Our research suggests that in the future stem cells derived from cord blood bank facilities might be used for repair after a heart attack."

The study focused on a rare type of stem cells, called CD133+, which is also present in adult bone marrow. There is also strong experimental evidence these cells derived from bone marrow may help with the regeneration of damaged heart muscle.

Professor Jeremy Pearson, Associate Medical Director at the British Heart Foundation, said: "Regenerative medicine research in the lab, alongside studies of patients, is absolutely crucial. Right now, the damage to the heart caused by heart attack cannot be reversed. Through research like this across the UK, we hope to bring our vision of mending broken hearts to reality.

"There has been interest for some time in the potential use of blood from the umbilical cord as a source of stem cells for therapy in a variety of diseases. This study has shown for the first time that it's possible to turn cord blood stem cells into cells that look like heart muscle, in the lab. The results are encouraging, but there are still lots of questions to answer before we'll know whether these cells can be used successfully for heart repair in patients."

In 2007, the British Heart Foundation (BHF) awarded Professor Ascione, over £200,000 for the world's first clinical trial, TransACT, to test whether bone marrow derived CD133+ stem cells can repair heart muscle cells damaged by a heart attack. Recently, funding for the trial has been extended to 2013.

The double blind placebo-controlled trial has successfully recruited 50 per cent of its patients with no safety concerns. Under Professor Ascione's leadership, 31 out of 60 patients, who have suffered a major heart attack, have been injected to date at the Bristol Heart Institute with stem cells from their own bone marrow or a placebo into their damaged hearts during routine coronary bypass surgery.

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Steps towards the use of adult stem cells for gene therapy

This research, published on Oct. 12 on the Nature review website, provides evidence of a major concept could pave the way for the future use of these stem cells to treat humans, through perspective gene therapies. For several years now, scientists have been able to produce cells with stem cell properties, by using specialized and mature cells from our body, such as skin cells. These 'iPS' stem cells are said to be "pluripotent': they can provide specialized cells, upon demand, with the same gene pool as the original cells. iPS cells represent a potential basis for the exploration of several therapeutic areas, particularly transplants or gene therapy. However, to date research conducted on these cells had not provided proof of their potential in vivo efficiency for the aforementioned types of use.

For the first time, researchers from the Sanger Institute and the University of Cambridge (United Kingdom), with collaboration from an Institut Pasteur/Inserm team in France, have demonstrated that the cells derived from iPS stem cells may be used within the framework of gene therapy to help counter pathological effects in a mice model with liver failure.

The researchers focussed on a rare genetic disease affecting the liver. It is caused by a point mutation in the a1-antitrypsin gene, which is essential for hepatic cells to function correctly. Children display varying degrees of mild symptoms (jaundice, abdomen distension, etc.), but, in adulthood, these symptoms may progressively develop into a pulmonary emphysema and cirrhosis, where the only hope of a cure is a liver transplant.

Researchers from the University of Cambridge, directed by Ludovic Vallier and David Lomas, and from the Sanger Institute, coordinated by Allan Bradley, began by sampling patients' skin cells, which were then cultured in vitro for "differentiation" before applying the properties of the pluripotent stem cells: this is the "iPS cells" stage. Through genetic engineering, scientists were then able to correct the mutation responsible for the disease. They then engaged the now "healthy" stem cells in the maturation process, leading them to differentiate to liver cells.

Scientists from the Institut Pasteur and Inserm, led by Hélène Strick-Marchand in the mixed Institut Pasteur/Inserm Innate Immunity unit (directed by James Di Santo), then tested new human hepatic cells thus produced on an animal model afflicted with liver failure. Their research showed that the cells were entirely functional and suited to integration in existing tissue and that they may contribute to liver regeneration in the mice treated.

This groundbreaking work, published in Nature, thus strengthened hopes in scientific and medical communities regarding the use of iPS cells to treat humans.

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Scientists use cloning to make human stem cells

By Julie Steenhuysen

CHICAGO | Wed Oct 5, 2011 1:42pm EDT

(Reuters) - U.S. scientists for the first time have used a cloning technique to get tailor-made embryonic stem cells to grow in unfertilized human egg cells, a landmark finding and a potential new flashpoint for opponents of stem cell research.

The researchers were trying to prove it is possible to use a cloning technology called somatic cell nuclear transfer, or SCNT, to make embryonic stem cells that match a patient's DNA.

The achievement, published on Wednesday in the journal Nature, is significant because such patient-specific cells potentially can be transplanted to replace damaged cells in people with diabetes and other diseases without rejection by the immune system.

Full story.

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Shaping Up: Controlling a Stem Cell's Form Can Determine Its Fate

"Form follows function!" was the credo of early 20th century architects making design choices based on the intended use of the structure. Cell biologists may be turning that on its head. New research* by a team working at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) reinforces the idea that stem cells can be induced to develop into specific types of cells solely by controlling their shape. The results may be important to the design of materials to induce the regeneration of lost or damaged tissues in the body.

Tissue engineering seeks to repair or re-grow damaged body tissues, often using some form of stem cells. Stem cells are basic repair units in the body that have the ability to develop into any of several different forms. The NIST experiments looked at primary human bone marrow stromal cells, adult stem cells that can be isolated from bone marrow and can "differentiate" into bone, fat or cartilage cells, depending.

"Depending on what?" is one of the key questions in tissue engineering. How do you ensure that the stem cells turn into the type you need? Chemical cues have been known to work in cases where researchers have identified the proper additives—a hormone in the case of bone cells. Other research has suggested that cell differentiation on flat surfaces can be controlled by patterning the surface to restrict the locations where growing cells can attach themselves.

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Federal Judge Tosses Suit Opposing Obama Funding of Stem Cell Research

Published July 27, 2011 | Associated Press

A federal judge is throwing out a lawsuit challenging the Obama administration's funding of embryonic stem cell research.

The lawsuit claimed the research violated a 1996 law that prohibits taxpayer financing for work that harms an embryo. But the Obama administration policy allows research on embryos that were culled long ago through private funding.

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Surgeons carry out first synthetic windpipe transplant

By Michelle Roberts

Health reporter, BBC News, in Stockholm

Surgeons in Sweden have carried out the world's first synthetic organ transplant.

Scientists in London created an artificial windpipe which was then coated in stem cells from the patient.

Crucially, the technique does not need a donor, and there is no risk of the organ being rejected. The surgeons stress a windpipe can also be made within days.

The 36-year-old cancer patient is doing well a month after the operation.

Professor Paolo Macchiarini from Spain led the pioneering surgery, which took place at the Karolinska University Hospital.

In an interview with the BBC, he said he now hopes to use the technique to treat a nine-month-old child in Korea who was born with a malformed windpipe or trachea.

Professor Macchiarini already has 10 other windpipe transplants under his belt - most notably the world's first tissue-engineered tracheal transplant in 2008 on 30-year-old Spanish woman Claudia Costillo - but all required a donor.

Full story.

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Stem-Cell Funding Ban Overturned

By BRENT KENDALL

WASHINGTON—Federal money can continue to fund human embryonic stem-cell research, a federal appeals court ruled Friday, in a significant legal victory for the Obama administration.

The U.S Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, in a 2-1 ruling, overturned a judge's preliminary injunction blocking government funding.

The appeals court said the National Institutes of Health reasonably concluded that government funding for embryonic stem-cell research is not prohibited by a 1996 law that bars the use of federal money for research in which an embryo is destroyed.

One of President Barack Obama's first acts on science policy after taking office was to take down barriers to stem-cell research set up by President George W. Bush in August 2001.

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Cellular Dynamics earns recognition for stem-cell derived heart cells

By Kathleen Gallagher of the Journal Sentinel

Dec. 1, 2010 11:44 a.m.

A Madison company's stem-cell derived heart cells have been named by The Scientist magazine as one of the top 10 life sciences innovations of 2010.

Calling them a symbol of just how fast a basic-science breakthrough can lead to new products, the magazine ranked Cellular Dynamics International's heart cells fifth on its list. Cells distributed by the company, known as CDI, are likely the first of many commercially available cell lines from differentiated human stem cells.

CDI's cells, called cardiomyocytes, have all the properties of embryonic stem cells, but they are not grown from embryos. The company grows its cells from individual skin or blood samples from adults. Pharmaceutical companies use them to test new drug candidates.

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UW-Madison chemists develop new stem cell system

By Mark Johnson of the Journal Sentinel

Nov. 15, 2010

Since James Thomson of the University of Wisconsin-Madison became the first person to derive and grow human embryonic stem cells in 1998, the accomplishment has remained a considerable challenge for labs. The cells, which can become any cell in the human body, are notoriously finicky.

Now, a team from UW-Madison has developed a fully defined culture system that should result in more uniform cells, according to an article in the journal Nature Methods. Although human embryonic stem cells are not yet approved for use in therapy, the new culture system should make them safer for such a use.

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Scientists find more efficient, safer way to reprogram cells

By Mark Johnson of the Journal Sentinel

Sept. 30, 2010

Almost three years after the first scientists reprogrammed human cells in Madison and Kyoto, Japan, researchers in Boston have developed a new process that appears to eliminate one of the major safety concerns while dramatically increasing the efficiency of the process.

The method, which uses RNA rather than inserted genes, was not only successful in returning adult human cells to the embryonic state, but also in guiding these powerful cells to different fates and even in changing skin cells to muscle cells directly. Such a technology, if proven completely safe, could provide an alternative to embryonic stem cells, allowing scientists to create and bank different cells for therapies, drug testing and the study of diseases.

Full story.

 

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State could lose millions in stem cell research funding

Congress could decide fate

By Jason Stein of the Journal Sentinel

Sept. 7, 2010

Wisconsin researchers and biotechnology companies stand to lose millions of dollars a year in federal funding for promising stem cell research because of a federal judge's ruling, Gov. Jim Doyle and university officials said Tuesday.

The State of Wisconsin will seek to file a friend of the court brief for an appeal to overturn that ruling, which temporarily blocked guidelines set down by President Barack Obama's administration expanding human embryonic stem cell research, Doyle said.

Also on Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth in Washington ruled that the Obama administration can't continue to fund embryonic stem cell research while appealing a ban on government support for any activity using cells taken from human embryos.

Lamberth rejected the government's motion to reconsider his ruling last month enforcing the ban pending an appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington. The Justice Department argued that Lamberth's injunction itself is causing irreparable harm to researchers, taxpayers and scientific progress.

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Ruling shuts down $70 million in stem cell projects

Decision draws praise, criticism

By Mark Johnson and Kathleen Gallagher of the Journal Sentinel

Aug. 24, 2010

A day after a U.S. district judge halted federal funding of all research involving embryonic stem cells, the government froze about $70 million for projects that were either up for renewal or well along in the approval process, effectively shutting down one of President Barack Obama's top scientific priorities.

In Wisconsin, the temporary injunction triggered praise from opponents of the research and anxiety from scientists who have dozens of projects and millions in federal money at stake. The ruling put at risk hundreds of millions of dollars in royalties the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation could potentially reap from its three key embryonic stem cell patents. And in the space of 24 hours, the court action thrust the issue of embryonic stem cell research into an already heated campaign for governor.

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Judge blocks federal stem cell research funding

By Mark Johnson of the Journal Sentinel

Aug. 23, 2010

A federal judge on Monday temporarily blocked guidelines set down by the Obama administration expanding human embryonic stem cell research, throwing into doubt studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and other major universities across the nation.

"It's broad and could have dramatic impact if the court upholds this for all funding of embryonic stem cell research," said Timothy Kamp, director of UW's Stem Cell & Regenerative Medicine Center.

Kamp said the ruling appears to go beyond the restrictions in place under former President George W. Bush by prohibiting federal funding not only for the derivation of embryonic stem cells, but for research that involves existing cells derived with private funds.

"I don't know what that means," Kamp said. "Does that mean money already given out for existing NIH research, we now have to cease and desist?"

He added that UW will wait for instructions from the National Institutes of Health regarding the ruling.

Full story.

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Mayo's 'smart' adult stem cells repair hearts

Mayo's 'smart' adult stem cells repair hearts

'Landmark work' moves beyond the bench

ROCHESTER, Minn. -- Mayo Clinic investigators, with Belgian collaborators, have demonstrated that rationally "guided" human adult stem cells can effectively heal, repair and regenerate damaged heart tissue. The findings -- called "landmark work" in an accompanying editorial -- appear in today's Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

Stem cells isolated from patients have normally a limited capacity to repair the heart. This innovative technology boosts the regenerative benefit by programming adult stem cells to acquire a cardiac-like profile. Primed by a cocktail of recombinant cardiogenic growth factors, mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) harvested from the bone marrow of a cohort of patients with coronary artery disease showed "superior functional and structural benefit without adverse side effects" over a 1-year follow-up in a model of heart failure according to the study.

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Reprogrammed cells retain some identity in embryonic state, study shows

By Mark Johnson of the Journal Sentinel

Posted: July 19, 2010 12:08 p.m.

Several years after scientists found a way to manipulate biology and send skin cells back to their embryonic origin, they are now learning that nature is not so easily tricked.

A reprogrammed skin cell retains a memory of its original identity as skin. Moreover, after the skin cell has returned to the embryonic state, it appears more willing to turn back into skin than to adopt a new identity.

The new findings by the lab of stem cell researcher George Daley at Children's Hospital Boston, were described Monday in a paper published online in the journal Nature and begin to address one of the mysteries surrounding reprogramming.

Since 2007 when the labs of James Thomson at University of Wisconsin-Madison and Shinya Yamanaka at Kyoto University first used a cocktail of genes to create an alternative to human embryonic stem cells, scientists have been puzzled by subtle differences between actual embryonic stem cells and these engineered versions.

The differences are important because the engineered cells were hailed as an alternative to embryonic stem cells that would allow scientists to make all of the cells in the human body while bypassing the ethical controversy that surrounded embryonic stem cells.

Daley said his team's work overthrows the assumption "that when you reprogram a skin or a blood cell you erase its memory of being skin or blood … Researchers have to appreciate the potential for this memory and erase it further or exploit it."

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Cellular Dynamics, Promega to collaborate on tests

By Kathleen Gallagher of the Journal Sentinel

Posted: June 15, 2010 10:08 a.m.

Cellular Dynamics International and Promega Corp. have entered into a research collaboration to develop toxicity tests for drug developers that use stem-cell derived heart cells.

The companies, both based in Madison, said the collaboration has potential to provide pharmaceutical company researchers with more predictive data, driving the development of safer and more effective drugs.

Their tests would use an alternative to embryonic stem cells known as iPS, or induced pluripotent stem cells that are made by Cellular Dynamics. To make iPS cells, Cellular Dynamics scientists take tissue cells, for example, and engineer them into cells that have all the characteristics of embryonic stem cells and are able to turn into beating heart cells, liver cells or any other cells in the body.

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Scientists create human embryonic stem cells with enhanced pluripotency

Scientists create human embryonic stem cells with enhanced pluripotency

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (May 3, 2010) – Whitehead Institute researchers have converted established human induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells and human embryonic stem (ES) cells to a base state of greater pluripotency.

"This is a previously unknown pluripotent state in human cells," says Jacob Hanna, a postdoctoral researcher in the lab of Whitehead Member Rudolf Jaenisch. "It's the first time these cell types have approached the flexibility found in mouse ES cells."

ES cells and iPS cells have attracted much attention because of their potential to mature into virtually any cell type in the body. Because ethical and legal issues have hampered human ES cell research, mouse cells have provided a more viable platform for ES cell studies. However, mouse and human ES cells differ in a number of significant ways, raising the very real possibility that breakthroughs in mouse stem cell science simply won't be reproducible with human stem cells.

Researchers have had a relatively easy time genetically manipulating and preventing differentiation (maturation beyond the base pluripotent state) in mouse ES and iPS cells. But human ES and iPS cells have different sets of expressed genes and depend on different signaling pathways for growth and differentiation than mouse ES and iPS cells, which makes the human cells more difficult to work with.

Because of these biological differences, researchers refer to mouse ES and iPS cells as "naïve" while human ES and iPS cells, which teeter on the verge of maturation, are more mature and are referred to as being "primed" for differentiation.

Hanna thought this "primed" state of human cells might be attributable to the way the human ES cell lines are created and stored. To generate ES cell lines, researchers remove cells from an early-stage embryo, called a blastocyst. Once removed from this ball of 80-100 cells, the ES cells are put into serum with other cells to keep the ES cells alive and prevent them from differentiating.

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WARF loses a round in stem cell patent dispute

By Kathleen Gallagher of the Journal Sentinel

The Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation has suffered a blow in its effort to protect a key patent for embryonic stem cell technology.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office last week reversed an earlier decision in which it rejected an appeal on one of three basic human embryonic stem cell patents held by the foundation, known as WARF.

The patent in question covers early work done by University of Wisconsin - Madison stem cell pioneer James Thomson. The patent office said it now agrees with the argument made by two foundations that Thomson's work covered by the single patent could have been performed by other scientists with access to the same resources.

The rejection does not affect a decision the patent office made in early 2008 to uphold two other basic embryonic stem cell patents held by WARF.

"WARF has been invited by the Board of Patent Appeals to continue prosecution of this application and plans to do so and vigorously pursue these claims with the patent office," the foundation said in a statement.

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Chemists influence stem-cell development with geometry

University of Chicago scientists have successfully used geometrically patterned surfaces to influence the development of stem cells. The new approach is a departure from that of many stem-cell biologists, who focus instead on uncovering the role of proteins in controlling the fate of stem cells.

"The cells are seeing the same soluble proteins. In both cases it's the shape alone that's dictating whether they turn into fat or bone, and that hasn't been appreciated before," said Milan Mrksich, Professor in Chemistry and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator, who led the study. "That's exciting because stem-cell therapies are of enormous interest right now, and a significant effort is ongoing to identify the laboratory conditions that can take a stem cell and push it into a specific lineage."

The UChicago team found that making cells assume a star shape promotes a tense cytoskeleton, which provides structural support for cells, while a flower shape promotes a looser cytoskeleton. "On a flower shape you get the majority of cells turning to fat, and on a star shape you've got the majority of cells turning into bone," said Kris Kilian, a National Institutes of Health Fellow in Mrksich's research group. The UChicago team published its findings in the March 1 Early Edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Mrksich cautioned that the method is far from ready for use in the harvest of stem cells for therapeutic use, but it does signal a potentially promising direction for further study.

Mrksich's research group has a long history of developing methods for patterning surfaces with chemistry to control the positions, sizes and shapes of cells in culture, and applying those patterned cells to drug-discovery assays, and studies of cell migration and cell adhesion.

Contact: Steve Koppes

s-koppes@uchicago.edu

773-702-8366

University of Chicago

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