Category Archives: news

Wisconsin team starts with skin, derives liver cells

By Mark Johnson of the Journal Sentinel, JSOnline.com

Just after 5 p.m. doors rattle shut and feet begin to shuffle past the narrow lab where Karim Si-Tayeb sits hunched over a microscope, all but invisible to the scientists leaving the Medical College of Wisconsin.

Si-Tayeb has already worked eight hours and will work five more, eyes locked on the living cells in his care. Under the microscope, their tiny colonies resemble constellations of tightly packed stars. They carry his ambition.

“A few months ago I was working and it struck me how incredibly cool this is,” he said, sliding a dish of unusual cells under the microscope, cells he had scientifically altered. “This revolution is occurring, and you are part of it.”

Early this year the 32-year-old postdoctoral student from France joined a biomedical revolution by reprogramming human skin cells back to their embryonic origin, just as James Thomson in Madison and Shinya Yamanaka in Japan did when they made headlines in November 2007. Now Si-Tayeb and his supervisor, Stephen A. Duncan, a Medical College professor, were engaged in the next great race.

In 2008, scientists began trying to turn the new reprogrammed cells into all of the building blocks doctors might use to treat a multitude of diseases. Cardiac cells to repair a damaged heart. Insulin-producing cells to help diabetics. Photoreceptor cells to restore lost vision.

The work would be crucial if stem cells were to fulfill their promise and begin a new wave of medicine.

Duncan and Si-Tayeb were tryingto become the first scientists to use the new technology to make liver cells. They hoped the liver cells would someday help patients with a relatively rare form of inherited diabetes called MODY (mature onset diabetes of the young). Reprogrammed cells from MODY patients could provide a microscopic view of the disease as it progresses and give scientists a target for drug testing.

The stakes were high for Si-Tayeb, still early in his career and dreaming of a big scientific paper with his name on it.

At night, Duncan lay awake worrying. When he did drift off to sleep, sometimes he dreamed of work, the anxiety flowing through him, waking him with a jolt. What if their analysis was flawed? What if while they worried and double-checked, another scientist published the same discovery? As much as he wanted to be first, Duncan vowed no corners would be cut.

“Rigor in science is everything,” he said. “Without it you have nothing.”

Their dilemma was now the dilemma of many in the field, an illustration of how a major advance alters the scientific landscape.

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Stem cell banking just got bigger in India

From thaindian.com

What could be more precious than gifting your unborn child a way to fight blood, genetic and immune system diseases for the rest of his or her life? Sure enough, many Indians are waking up to the magic of stem cell banking.”Already 300 people have approached us for information on stem cell banking,” said V.R. Chandramouli, managing director of Europe’s largest stem cell banking company, Cryo-Save, which launched operations in the country in December.

The company obviously realises the huge potential in this business in India, a country of a billion plus people. It has invested over Rs.10 million in 10 stem cell storage banks opened this month.

A couple of companies in India were already dealing with stem cell banking like LifeCell, Chennai; and Reliance Life Sciences. Stem cells from umbilical cord blood are collected at the time of delivery when the cord connecting the baby to mother is cut.

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Stem Cells And Leukemia Battle For Marrow Microenvironment

From MedicalNewsToday.com

Learning how leukemia takes over privileged “niches” within the bone marrow is helping researchers develop treatment strategies that could protect healthy blood-forming stem cells and improve the outcomes of bone marrow transplantation for leukemia and other types of cancer.

In a paper in the journal Science, available early online Dec. 19, 2008, researchers from the University of Chicago Medical Center show that by blocking one of the chemical signals that leukemic cells release, they could help prevent the cells that mature to become red and white blood cells from being shut down by the cancerous invader.

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Patient-derived induced stem cells retain disease traits

From Genengnews.com

When neurons started dying in Clive Svendsen’s lab dishes, he couldn’t have been more pleased.

The dying cells the same type lost in patients with the devastating neurological disease spinal muscular atrophy confirmed that the University of Wisconsin-Madison stem cell biologist had recreated the hallmarks of a genetic disorder in the lab, using stem cells derived from a patient. By allowing scientists the unparalleled opportunity to watch the course of a disease unfold in a lab dish, the work marks an enormous step forward in being able to study and develop new therapies for genetic diseases.

As reported this week in the journal Nature, Svendsen and colleagues at UW-Madison and the University of Missouri-Columbia created disease-specific stem cells by genetically reprogramming skin cells from a patient with spinal muscular atrophy, or SMA. In this inherited disease, the most common genetic cause of infant mortality, a mutation leads to the death of the nerves that control skeletal muscles, causing muscle weakness, paralysis, and ultimately death, usually by age two.

Genetic reprogramming of skin cells, first reported in late 2007 by UW-Madison stem cell biologists James Thomson and Junying Yu and a Japanese group led by Shinya Yamanaka, turns back the cells’ developmental clock and returns them to an embryonic-like state from which they can become any of the body’s 220 different cell types. The resulting induced pluripotent stem cells, known as iPS cells, harness the blank-slate developmental potential of embryonic stem cells without the embryo and have been heralded as a powerful potential way to study development and disease.

Just one year later, the new work is fulfilling that promise.

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Caption: The nerves that control muscles, known as motor neurons (shown here in red), are lost in the devastating genetic disease called spinal muscular atrophy, causing weakness, paralysis, and early death. A team of UW-Madison stem cell biologists recreated the hallmarks of this disease in the lab using genetically reprogrammed stem cells created from a young SMA patient’s skin. The work gives scientists the opportunity to study the full progression of a disease in the lab and should improve understanding and treatment of genetic disorders. The motor neurons shown here were grown from cells from the patient’s healthy mother.
Photo: provided by Clive Svendsen, cnsvendsen@wisc.edu

FDA Approves Drug that Boosts Stem Cell Yield for Bone Marrow Transplants

From FDA.gov

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration today approved Mozobil (plerixafor), a drug that helps increase the number of blood stem cells for bone marrow transplantation in patients with certain forms of blood cancer.

Mozobil is intended to be used in combination with the growth factor granulocyte-colony stimulating factor (G-CSF), for treatment of adults with multiple myeloma or non-Hodgkin’s lymphomas. Multiple myeloma is cancer of the plasma cell, a cell in the bone marrow that produces antibodies to help fight infection and disease. Non-Hodgkin lymphomas are a diverse group of blood cell cancers derived from lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell.

Prior to receiving high-dose chemotherapy or radiation therapy, patients with these forms of cancer sometimes undergo a procedure known as apheresis in which blood stem cells are collected and stored for reinfusion after therapy. G-CSF is commonly administered to help release and collect stem cells from the bone marrow. Mozobil is an injectable drug that, when used in combination with G-CSF, boosts the number of stem cells released from the bone marrow into the blood stream.

“Collecting the millions of cells needed for a bone marrow transplant can take hours or days,” said Richard Pazdur, M.D., director, Office of Oncology Drug Products, Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, FDA. “Mobozil provides a new therapeutic option for patients with certain types of blood cancers by increasing the number of stem cells collected in a given time period to be reinfused after therapy.”

In two randomized clinical trials – one in patients with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, the other with multiple myeloma – Mozobil combined with G-CSF increased the number of stem cells available for collection and transplantation compared with patients receiving G-CSF alone.

The most commonly reported adverse reactions in these trials and other smaller studies were diarrhea, nausea, fatigue, injection site reactions, headaches, joint pain, dizziness and vomiting.

Mozobil is manufactured by Genzyme Corp., Cambridge, Mass.

StemCells, Inc. Receives FDA Approval to Initiate Clinical Trial of HuCNS-SC(R) Cells in a Myelin Disease

StemCells, Inc.  (STEM) today announced that it has received approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to initiate a clinical trial of the Company’s proprietary HuCNS-SC product candidate (purified human neural stem cells) to treat Pelizaeus-Merzbacher Disease (PMD), a fatal brain disorder that mainly affects young children. This Phase I trial is designed to evaluate the safety and preliminary efficacy of HuCNS-SC cells as a treatment for PMD. Currently, there are no approved treatments for this disease.

This is the Company’s second FDA-approved clinical trial to evaluate HuCNS-SC cells as a potential treatment for neurodegenerative diseases. The first such study was the Company’s Phase I clinical trial of HuCNS-SC cells to treat neuronal ceroid lipofuscinoses (NCL), or Batten disease. The Phase I NCL trial will be completed in January 2009.

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Animal stem cell bank in Chennai, a first in India

CHENNAI: Every time three-year-old Giggle, a German Shepherd, hides in some corner of the house with her head down, her owner Sridhar Venkatraman, an IT professional, feels the pain. “With each passing month, she is becoming increasingly disabled and racked by pain because of arthritis. Search engines on the internet led me to reports that show how several animals abroad have been treated for the disease with vet stem cell therapy. But veterinarians here don’t offer such treatment,” he says.

Giggle and many dogs like her may some hope now. The Tamil Nadu Veterinary Sciences University (TANUVAS) is planning to establish an animal stem cell bank in Chennai, perhaps the first such in the country. Scientists hope this will eventually lead to better treatment for animals like Giggle who suffer from denegerative diseases.

TANUVAS has submitted its proposal to the department of bio-technology, ministry of science and technology, seeking Rs 15.3 crore to put up the facility. “The file is pending. But we hope we will get to start the project by mid-2009,” says TANUVAS vice-chancellor Dr P Thangaraju. At a time when human stem cell therapy for various ailments is still in the experimental stage, the university plans to offer some certified therapies for animals, besides starting research on new avenues in collaboration with the Japan-based Nichi-In Centre for Regenerative Medicine (NCRM).

The proposed centre would help store adult animal stem cells drawn from bone marrow and fat (adeponectine) tissue for research on corneal, spine and untreatable fractures besides degenerative diseases, Dr Thangaraju says.

Although restrictions on clinical trials on animals are far less than on humans, TANUVAS has decided against using embryonic cells because of the ongoing moral debate about using human embryos. Dr Jestin Williams, principal investigator, TANUVAS, who will be in charge of the stem cell bank, says a small sample (about two tablespoons) of a dog’s own fat drawn from the animal’s belly would be given to NCRM to isolate regenerative cells. The cells will then be returned either in ready-to-inject syringes for therapy or research
, or in vials for storage. “The stem cells will then be injected directly into the animal’s joint or any other area that needs treatment,” he says.

Scientists will also be working on developing cell lines that could replace ailing cells in the animal’s body. “We will work on methods to reprogramme adult stem cells back to embryonic cells. Scientists in Japan have already been able to do this,” says Dr Williams. TANUVAS will also throw options open for animal owners to store animal stem cells for future use. “Though there has not been a great breakthrough in cord blood, many people have invested in storing it for future use. That’s when we realised that there could be an equally good response for companion species such as dogs and horses,” adds Dr Jestin.

Senior veterinarians are enthused by the TANUVAS proposal. “Though we are almost on a par with developed countries when it comes to treatment and management of diseases, we are way behind other countries when it comes to research,” says a senior veterinary surgeon. Experts believe that this will, besides bringing in a new perspective to animal healthcare, provide them vital clues for human trials as well.

“This is the only field where experiments on animals are taking place after they have been conducted on humans. But in research of this sort, we always learn. It will be interesting to see how the university progresses with its research. Perhaps there will be something for us to learn while we work with human cells,” says Dr Rama Shanker Verma, associate professor, stem cell and molecular biology lab, Indian Institute of Technology, Madras.

Complete article here.

BALTIMORE ’09: Maryland to host World Stem Cell Research Summit

Maryland will host the 2009 World Stem Cell Summit next September in Baltimore, Gov. Martin O’Malley announced Wednesday at the state’s first stem cell research symposium.

The three-day summit, which will be held at the Baltimore Convention Center, is expected to bring in 1,500 stem cell researchers, business leaders and policymakers from across the globe to discuss the future of the field.

“I’m very, very grateful to all of those who made the decision to come to Maryland,” said O’Malley, speaking at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory. “It follows a great deal of recognition that we’ve been receiving over the efforts that we’ve made together.”

Summit attendees are expected to discuss stem cell policy issues, including how to legally transport stem cells across state lines, said Bernard Siegel, executive director of the Florida-based Genetics Policy Institute, which is organizing the event.

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Patient’s stem cells used to treat heart failure

Lisa Rosetta / Salt Lake Tribune
SALT LAKE CITY — University of Utah researchers are going to be the first in the country to inject patients’ own stem cells into their hearts to treat two types of heart failure.

After drawing about three tablespoons of patients’ own bone marrow, researchers will grow cardiac-repair cells — believed to help heart muscles and improve blood flow — in culture for about 12 days.

The cells that survive culture are healthier than the original ones extracted from the patient, said Amit Patel, director of cardiovascular regenerative medicine at the university’s School of Medicine.

Two weeks later, the newly grown stem cells will be injected directly into the left ventricle of the patients’ hearts during a minimally invasive surgery developed by Patel, the national principal investigator of the Aastrom Biosciences-sponsored Phase II clinical trial.

Most patients will leave the hospital two to three days after surgery — and within six months, will start to feel the results, he said.

In stem cell clinical trials conducted outside of the country, patients experienced between 20 percent and 100 percent improvement.

“This is truly unique in the type of patients and the type of delivery,” Patel said.

The one-year Cardiac Repair Cell Treatment of Patients with Dilated Cardiomyopathy study — the first trial of its kind in the country — will provide “patients who have limited to no other options with a viable treatment,” Patel said.

“By using a patient’s own cells, we eliminate the concern of rejection and the need for potentially harmful immunosuppressive drugs.”

The treatment is targeted at patients with two types of heart disease. Ischemic heart disease occurs when hearts don’t get enough blood and oxygen because of heart muscle damage caused by coronary artery disease.

Non-ischemic heart disease describes muscle damage caused by other means, including viruses or drug use, Patel said.

A subset of these patients has dilated cardiomyopathy, a condition that leaves the heart weakened, enlarged and unable to pump blood efficiently.

“For most of these patients, the only option has been a heart transplant,” said David Bull, professor and division chief of cardiothoracic surgery in the University of Utah’s medical school.

Patel said about 50 out-of-state patients — many of whom are following him from Pittsburgh, where he moved from three months ago — are “lined up” to participate.

3 UW spinoffs form major stem cell company

By RYAN J. FOLEY | Associated Press Writer

MADISON, Wis. – Three companies founded by star University of Wisconsin-Madison stem cell researcher James Thomson are merging into a single entity that aspires to be a world leader in the field.

Under a deal announced Monday, Cellular Dynamics International is joining forces with Stem Cell Products Inc. and iPS Cells Inc. Backed by $18 million in private venture capital, the new company is keeping CDI’s name and its headquarters in Madison.

“The new company has an ambitious goal: it intends to be the world leader in the industrialization of basic stem cell technology,” said Bob Palay, its chairman and chief executive.

Thomson said the company would focus first on supplying human heart cells made from stem cells to pharmaceutical companies for drug testing. He has long predicted stem cells would be most useful first in speeding drugs to market and pinpointing potential side effects.

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