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A Step Closer to Developing ‘Smart’ Stem Cells Made From Human Fat

The scientists at University of New South Wales created iMS cells in a lab by exposing human fat cells to a compound mixture that caused the cells to lose their original identity. This process also erased ‘silencing marks’ – marks responsible for restricting cell identity. 

The researchers injected the human iMS cells into mice where they stayed dormant – at first. But, when the mice had an injury, the stem cells adapted to their surroundings and transformed into the tissue that needed repairing, be it muscle, bone, cartilage, or blood vessels.

There are existing technologies to transform cells into stem cells, but they have key limitations: tissue-specific stem cells are inherently limited in the range of tissues they can create, and induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells cannot be directly injected because they carry a risk of developing tumours. iPS cells also need extra treatment to generate specific cell types or tissues before use. More studies are needed to test how both iPS cells and tissues created by tissue-specific stem cells function in humans.

The study builds on the team’s 2016 study using mouse cells and is the next step before human-only trials. But there is still a long wait – and much more research to be done – to assess whether the cells are safe and successful in humans.

If the iMS cells are shown to be safe for human use, they could one day help mend anything from traumatic injuries to heart damage.

(Source: UNSW Newsroom, 2021)

Researchers Put Forward New Stem Cell Therapy for Regenerating Cardiac Function in Children

Scientists at Okayama University have isolated cardiac stem cells and assessed their potential use as regenerative therapy in young patients with cardiac defects. They confirmed the safety and effectiveness of their proposed treatment in early-phase trials and even identified the mechanism through which the stem cells improved cardiac function. Based on these encouraging preliminary findings, there is hope that the therapy can move into to larger clinical trials and towards pharmaceutical approval in the future.

Professor Hidemasa Oh led an interdepartmental team of scientists to launch the first steps to assess the potential of “cardiosphere-derived cells” (CDCs) in treating children suffering from Dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM). In early stages of trials, Professor Oh’s team utilising animal models, established safety and efficacy of CDCs in treating cardiac symptoms similar to DCM in pigs. In those given the stem cell treatment, the scientists noticed quick improvements in cardiac function. The heart muscle thickened, allowing more blood to be pumped around the body. This effectively reversed the damage induced in the pigs’ hearts, an encouraging result leading them to progress to small, controlled human trials.

Their phase 1 trial involved five young patients suffering from DCM. The scientists now had a better idea of the suitable dose of CDCs to give their young patients, thanks to the pre-clinical trials in animals. One year after injection, the patients showed no sign of severe side effects from the treatment, but most importantly, there were encouraging signs of improved heart function. The authors are cautious: based on the small population size of their study, they cannot establish a strong conclusion. However, they are satisfied that CDC treatment appears sufficiently safe and effective to progress to a larger clinical trial.

(Source: Okayama University, 2021)

Fujifilm and the Center for Advanced Biological Innovation and Manufacturing Announce $76M in Funding for Manufacturing and Innovation Center

FUJIFILM Corporation and the Center for Advanced Biological Innovation and Manufacturing (CABIM) have announced that they have secured $76 million in financing and signed a lease for a 40,000 square-foot site in Watertown, Massachusetts at The Arsenal on the Charles, owned and operated by Alexandria Real Estate Equities, Inc.

The Center will advance research and development in cell and gene therapy, gene editing, immunotherapy, and biotechnology. FUJIFILM Diosynth Biotechnologies, the Bio CDMO1 subsidiary of FUJIFILM Corporation, will provide GMP2 contract process development and manufacturing services as part of its role in the new manufacturing and innovation center.

(Source: PR News Wire, 2021)

Potential New Approach to Treating Blindness

An international research team of scientists from Singapore’s Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR), the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York and Germany’s Eye Clinic Sulzbach recently showed that retinal cells derived from adult human stem cells survived when transplanted into the eyes of monkeys, pointing way to a potential new approach to treating blindness.

The findings suggest that these retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) stem cell-derived RPE, or hRPESC-RPE, may be a useful source for cell replacement therapies to treat RPE-related blindness caused by diseases such as macular degeneration, the researchers suggest. The results are published in the journal Stem Cell Reports.

An estimated 200 million people live with diseases associated with RPE dysfunction, including macular degeneration. Earlier approaches posed limitations and scientists have been searching for treatment using different populations of stem cells.

(Source: Fierce Biotech, 2021)