Early Results Show Promise for Stem Cells in Treating Chronic Liver Failure

Stem cell transfusions may someday replace the need for transplants in patients who suffer from liver failure caused by hepatitis B, according to a new study coming out of Beijing. . The results are published in the October issue of STEM CELLS Translational Medicine. Worldwide more than 500,000 people die each year from this condition.

“In China, hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection accounts for the highest proportion of liver failure cases. While liver transplantation is considered the standard treatment, it has several drawbacks including a limited number of donors, long waiting lists, high cost and multiple complications. Our study shows that mesenchymal stem cell (MSCs) transfusions might be a good, safe alternative,” said Fu-Sheng Wang, Ph.D., M.D., the study’s lead author and director of the Research Center for Biological Therapy (RCBT) in Beijing.

Wang along with RCBT colleague, Drs. Ming Shi and Zheng Zhang of the Research Center for Biological Therapy, The Institute of Translational Hepatology led the group of physician-scientists from the centers and Beijing 302 Hospital who conducted the study.

MSC transfusions had already been shown to improve liver function in patients with end-stage liver diseases. This time, the researchers wanted to gauge the safety and initial efficacy of treating acute-on-chronic liver failure (ACLF) with MSCs. The American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases and the European Association for the Study of the Liver define ACLF as an “acute deterioration of pre-existing chronic liver disease usually related to a precipitating event and associated with increased mortality at three months due to multisystem organ failure.” The short-term mortality rate for this condition is more than 50 percent.

MSCs have self-renewing abilities and the potential to differentiate into various types of cells. More importantly, they can interact with immune cells and cause the immune system to adjust to the desired level.

Of the 43 patients in this pilot study — each of whom had liver failure resulting from chronic HBV infection — 24 were treated with MSCs taken from donated umbilical cords and 19 were treated with saline as the control group. All received conventional therapy as well. The liver function, adverse events and survival rates were then evaluated during the 48-week or 72-week follow-up period.

Along with increased survival rates, the patients’ liver function improved and platelet count increased. No significant side effects were observed throughout the treatment and follow-up period.

“While the results are preliminary and this pilot study includes a small number of patients, MSC transfusions appear to be safe and may serve as a novel therapeutic approach for HBV-associated ACLF patients,” Dr. Shi said.

“The study also highlights several key issues that will need to be considered in the design of future clinical studies, such as the optimal type of stem cells that will be infused, the minimum effective number of the cells and the best route of administration,” Dr. Wang added.

“These results are certainly promising and the strategy merits additional study, especially considering the shortage of donor organs”  said Anthony Atala, MD, Editor of STEM CELLS Translational Medicine and director of the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine.

Celebrate International Stem Cell Awareness Day Online

On Oct. 3, scientists, researchers and supporters around the world will celebrate International Stem Cell Awareness Day. Advocates are asked to visit a new interactive website, www.StemCellsOfferHope.com, to share a wide range of key facts, downloadable images and links to other valuable resources within their social networks. It also features links that enable visitors to easily post information and images with family and friends on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. Supporters are also encouraged to help drive visitors to this website through the use of blogs and social media networks.

“This is a critical and historic time for stem cell research,” said Peter Donovan, Ph.D., director, Sue & Bill Gross Stem Cell Research Center, UC Irvine. “We’re literally on the brink of developing new treatments to some of the world’s most devastating diseases and injuries and the act of simply raising awareness about this research is one of the best things people can do to help accelerate the process.”

Researchers have been working diligently to unlock the potential of stem cells and have made significant strides since the discovery of a method to grow and duplicate human stem cells less than 15 years ago. Their efforts to develop cures for conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis, macular degeneration, Huntington’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, as well as traumatic brain injuries and paralysis caused by spinal cord injuries are moving forward at a rapid pace. For more information visit www.stemcellsofferhope.com.

About the Sue & Bill Gross Stem Cell Research Center, UC Irvine:
The Sue & Bill Gross Stem Cell Research Center, UC Irvine is one of the largest most technologically advanced stem cell research facilities in the world. The center was established in 2010 in part through a $10 million gift from Bill Gross, founder and co-chief investment officer of international investment firm PIMCO, and his wife Sue. For more than 40 years, its team of scientists and multiple research and graduate assistants have worked to unlock the potential of stem cells for treating and curing an estimated 70 major diseases and disorders. The research center has devised new methods for growing stems cells that are 100 percent more effective than previous techniques. Other advances have led to the world’s first clinical trial of a human neural stem cell-based therapy for chronic spinal cord injury and the first FDA-approved clinical trial using human embryonic stem cells. The embryonic stem cells are produced from embryos donated for research purposes during fertility treatments. These cells would otherwise be destroyed. For more information, visit stemcell.uci.edu.

Deaf gerbils ‘hear again’ after stem cell cure

UK researchers say they have taken a huge step forward in treating deafness after stem cells were used to restore hearing in animals for the first time.

Hearing partially improved when nerves in the ear, which pass sounds into the brain, were rebuilt in gerbils – a UK study in the journal Nature reports.

Getting the same improvement in people would be a shift from being unable to hear traffic to hearing a conversation. However, treating humans is still a distant prospect.

Read more from BBCNews – Deaf ‘hear again’ with stem cells

Dr. Jim Till – The Theory Behind the Stem Cell Concept

For further information please visit: www.fcihr.ca

Film Review: Stem Cell Revolutions

STEM CELL REVOLUTIONS is a new documentary about the burgeoning field of stem cells. Featuring beautiful hand-drawn animations and interviews with leading stem cell scientists, STEM CELL REVOLUTIONS charts the history and scientific evolution of stem cell research – from the earliest experiments that first revealed stem cells in the body, to leading current scientific and clinical developments.

It was very interesting to see how the radiation fallout from Hiroshima indirectly led to the discovery of stem cells. It was also fascinating to view the early successes of stem cells that encouraged both scientists and their students to forge forward with their research.

The ethical debate of stem cells is visited as well with the film discussing embryonic stem cells vs. induced pluripotent stem cells. Also to the filmmakers’ credit, they do not shy away from the negative aspects of stem cell research, in particular, those who are being exploited by untried and untested drugs.

Director/Producer Amy Hardie and Science Producer Dr Clare Blackburn do a great job of taking such a scientific/technical issue as stem cells and making it approachable, entertaining, and easy to follow. The film is a great way to introduce stem cells to non-technical audiences such as teachers and students.

To view the film online please visit http://stemcellrevolutions.com

Alzheimer’s Stem Cell Research: Ask the Expert – Larry Goldstein, UCSD

In this first installment of CIRM TV’s “Ask the Expert” video series, Larry Goldstein of the University of California, San Diego answers questions about finding stem cell based therapies for Alzheimer’s disease. Readers of CIRM’s Facebook, Twitter, and research blog sent in the questions over the past few weeks. Dr. Goldstein is a CIRM grantee and director of the UC San Diego stem cell program.

For more information about CIRM-funded Alzheimer’s research, visit our fact sheet at: http://www.cirm.ca.gov/Alzheimers_Disease_Facts

To learn more about the efforts of California’s Stem Cell Agency to accelerate the development of new therapies for chronic disease and injury, visit our home page at: http://www.cirm.ca.gov

Looking Below the Surface: Stem Cell Behavior in Real Time

Scientists have for the first time watched and manipulated stem cells as they regenerate tissue in an uninjured mammal, Yale researchers report July 1, 2012, online in the journal Nature.

Using a sophisticated imaging technique, the researchers also demonstrated that mice lacking a certain type of cell do not regrow hair. The same technique could shed light on how stem cells interact with other cells and trigger repairs in a variety of other organs, including lung and heart tissue. Valentina Greco, assistant professor of genetics and of dermatology at Yale School of Medicine, and her team focused on stem cell behavior in the hair follicle of the mouse. The accessibility of the hair follicle allowed real-time and non-invasive imaging through a technology called 2-photon intravital microscopy. Using this method, Panteleimon Rompolas, a post-doctoral fellow in Greco’s lab and lead author of this paper, was able to study the interaction between stem cells and their progeny, which produce all the different types of cells in the tissue. The interaction of these cells with the immediate environment determines how cells divide, where they migrate and which specialized cells they become. The technology allowed the team to discover that hair growth in mice cannot take place in the absence of connective tissue called mesenchyme, which appears early in embryonic development.

The study was funded by an Alexander Brown Coxe postdoctoral fellowship. This work was supported in part by the American Skin Association and the American Cancer Society and the Yale Rheumatologic Disease Research Core Center and the National Institutes of Health.

Other Yale authors include Elizabeth Deschene, Giovanni Zito, David G. Gonzalez, Ichiko Saotome and Ann M. Haberman.

Produced by Yale School of Medicine’s Office of Institutional Planning and Communications (medicine.yale.edu/ipc)

Producer/director: Michael Fitzsousa

Stem cell videos courtesy of Panteleimon Rompolas

Opening graphic: Jennifer Stockwell

Two-photon microscope diagram © 2010 LaVision BioTec GmbH, Germany
Skin illustration © 2008 Terese Winslow; U.S. government has certain rights

Special thanks: Kirsten Cartoski, Wes Choy, Doug Forbush, Yale Broadcast and Media Center

Stem Cell Therapy for Spinal Cord Injury

Part 1 of a 5-Part Series: Dr. Neil Riordan discusses mesenchymal stem cell sources from umbilical cord Wharton’s jelly, stem cell expansion, therapeutic potential of umbilical cord mesenchymal stem cells vs. bone marrow mesenchymal stem cells, CD34+ hematopoietic stem cells from umbilical cord blood and the scientific rationale supporting stem cell treatment of spinal cord injury. View part 2 here: http://youtu.be/I17-wYIEZ84
Visit the Stem Cell Institute at www.cellmedicine.com

Quant Pioneers, Experts and Investors to Discuss Rapid Market Evolution

NEW YORK – The stem cell and regenerative medicine industry is facing a serious funding problem. Just as the first therapies are reaching commercialization, biotechs in phase 2 and 3 are struggling to raise the funds needed to finish their studies.

Over 300 biotechs, pharmas, investors, and suppliers will be meeting in Boston on September 20-21 at the Stem Cells USA and Regenerative Medicine Congress 2012. Key speakers include Todd McAllister, CEO of Cytograft Tissue Engineering, Gary Rabin, CEO of Advanced Cell Technology, Geoff MacKay, CEO of Organogenesis, and Gil Van Bokkelen, Chairman and CEO of Athersys.

This event is designed to help biotechs learn the strategies necessary to raise capital and sustain clinical development through phase 3 and help pharmas identify the most lucrative companies and technologies currently being developed in the space.  Furthermore, this event is co-located with the first-ever World Cord Blood Congress. Participants will learn:

~ How to raise and sustain funding through phase I, II, and III trials

~ How to source the newest and most exciting stem cell technology

~ How to take a product from inception to commercialization

~ How to ensure reimbursement for novel regenerative therapies

To register or learn more visit www.terrapinn.com/stemcellsusa

About Terrapinn:
Terrapinn is a business media company. Our products are trade exhibitions, conferences, training solutions and electronic and print publications. More information and a schedule of our events can be found at www.terrapinn.com.

Researchers discover drug that destroys human cancer stem cells

A team of scientists at McMaster University has discovered a drug, thioridazine, successfully kills cancer stem cells in the human while avoiding the toxic side-effects of conventional cancer treatments. Mick Bhatia is interviewed in this video regarding the discovery.

Click here for full article.