Tuesday, 6 October 2015
Researchers have succeed in producing photoreceptors from human embryonic stem cells
Tuesday, 06 October 2015
Age-related macular degeneration (AMRD) could be treated by transplanting photoreceptors produced by the directed differentiation of stem cells, thanks to findings published today by Professor Gilbert Bernier of the University of Montreal and its affiliated Maisonneuve-Rosemont Hospital. ARMD is a common eye problem caused by the loss of cones. Bernier's team has developed a highly effective in vitro technique for producing light sensitive retina cells from human embryonic stem cells.
"Our method has the capacity to differentiate 80% of the stem cells into pure cones," Professor Gilbert explained.
"Within 45 days, the cones that we allowed to grow towards confluence spontaneously formed organised retinal tissue that was 150 microns thick. This has never been achieved before."
In order to verify the technique, Bernier injected clusters of retinal cells into the eyes of healthy mice. The transplanted photoreceptors migrated naturally within the retina of their host.
"Cone transplant represents a therapeutic solution for retinal pathologies caused by the degeneration of photoreceptor cells," Bernier explained.
"To date, it has been difficult to obtain great quantities of human cones."
His discovery offers a way to overcome this problem, offering hope that treatments may be developed for currently non-curable degenerative diseases, like Stargardt disease and ARMD.
"Researchers have been trying to achieve this kind of trial for years," he said.
"Thanks to our simple and effective approach, any laboratory in the world will now be able to create masses of photoreceptors. Even if there's a long way to go before launching clinical trials, this means, in theory, that will be eventually be able to treat countless patients."
The findings are particularly significant in the light of improving life expectancies and the associated increase in cases of ARMD. ARMD is in fact the greatest cause of blindness amongst people over the age of 50 and affects millions of people worldwide. And as we age, it is more and more difficult to avoid - amongst people over 80, this accelerated aging of the retina affects nearly one in four. People with ARMD gradually lose their perception of colours and details to the point that they can no longer read, write, watch television or even recognize a face.
ARMD is due to the degeneration of the macula, which is the central part of the retina that enables the majority of eyesight. This degeneration is caused by the destruction of the cones and cells in the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE), a tissue that is responsible for the reparation of the visual cells in the retina and for the elimination of cells that are too worn out. However, there is only so much reparation that can be done as we are born with a fixed number of cones. They therefore cannot naturally be replaced. Moreover, as we age, the RPE's maintenance is less and less effective - waste accumulates, forming deposits.
"Differentiating RPE cells is quite easy. But in order to undertake a complete therapy, we need neuronal tissue that links all RPE cells to the cones. That is much more complex to develop," Bernier explains, noting nonetheless that he believes his research team is up to the challenge.
Bernier has been interested in the genes that code and enable the induction of the retina during embryonic development since completing his PhD in Molecular Biology in 1997.
"During my post-doc at the Max-Planck Institute in Germany, I developed the idea that there was a natural molecule that must exist and be capable of forcing embryonic stem cells into becoming cones," he said.
Indeed, bioinformatics analysis led him to predict the existence of a mysterious protein: COCO, a "recombinational" human molecule that is normally expressed within photoreceptors during their development.
In 2001, he launched his laboratory at Maisonneuve-Rosemont Hospital and immediately isolated the molecule. But it took several years of research to demystify the molecular pathways involved in the photoreceptors development mechanism. His latest research shows that in order to create cones, COCO can systematically block all the signalling pathways leading to the differentiation of the other retinal cells in the eye. It's by uncovering this molecular process that Bernier was able to produce photoreceptors. More specifically, he has produced S-cones, which are photoreceptor prototypes that are found in the most primitive organisms.
Beyond the clinical applications, Professor Bernier's findings could enable the modelling of human retinal degenerative diseases through the use of induced pluripotent stem cells, offering the possibility of directly testing potential avenues for therapy on the patient's own tissues.
Source: University of Montréal
Contact: William Raillant-Clark
Differentiation of human embryonic stem cells into cone photoreceptors through simultaneous inhibition of BMP, TGFβ and Wnt signaling
Shufeng Zhou, Anthony Flamier, Mohamed Abdouh, Nicolas Tétreault, Andrea Barabino, Shashi Wadhwa and Gilbert Bernier
Development, 42, 3294-3306, October 1, 2015, doi: 10.1242/dev.125385
For more on stem cells and cloning, go to CellNEWS at
Thursday, 3 September 2015
Study Reveals the Genetic Start-up of a Human Embryo
Thursday, 03 September 2015
An international team of scientists led from Sweden’s Karolinska Institutet has for the first time mapped all the genes that are activated in the first few days of a fertilised human egg. The study, which is being published in the journal Nature Communications, provides an in-depth understanding of early embryonic development in human – and scientists now hope that the results will help finding for example new therapies against infertility.
At the start of an individual’s life there is a single fertilised egg cell. One day after fertilisation there are two cells, after two days four, after three days eight and so on, until there are billions of cells at birth. The order in which our genes are activated after fertilisation has remained one of the last uncharted territories of human development.
Juha Kere is a Professor of Molecular Genetics at
Karolinska Institutet. Credit: Ulf Sirborn.
“These genes are the ‘ignition key’ that is needed to turn on human embryonic development. It is like dropping a stone into water and then watching the waves spread across the surface”, says principal investigator Juha Kere, professor at theDepartment of Biosciences and Nutrition at Karolinska Institutet and also affiliated to the SciLifeLab facility in Stockholm.
The researchers had to develop a new way of analysing the results in order to find the new genes. Most genes code for proteins but there are a number of repeated DNA sequences that are often considered to be so-called ‘junk DNA’, but are in fact important in regulating gene expression.
Treatment of infertility
In the current study, the researchers show that the newly identified genes can interact with the ‘junk DNA’, and that this is essential to the start of development.
Outi Hovatta is a Professor of Obstetrics and
Gynaecology at Karolinska Institutet. Credit:
The study was a collaboration between three research groups from Sweden and Switzerland that each provided a unique set of skills and expertise. The work was supported by the Karolinska Institutet Distinguished Professor Award, the Swedish Research Council, the Strategic Research Program for Diabetes funding at Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm County, the Jane & Aatos Erkko Foundation, the Instrumentarium Science Foundation, and the Åke Wiberg and Magnus Bergvall foundations. The computations were performed on resources provided by SNIC through Uppsala Multidisciplinary Center for Advanced Computational Science (UPPMAX).
Source: Karolinska Institutet
Contact: KI Press Office
Novel PRD-like homeodomain transcription factors and retrotransposon elements in early human development
Virpi Töhönen, Shintaro Katayama, Liselotte Vesterlund, Eeva-Mari Jouhilahti, Mona Sheikhi, Elo Madissoon, Giuditta Filippini-Cattaneo, Marisa Jaconi, Anna Johnsson, Thomas R. Bürglin, Sten Linnarsson, Outi Hovatta and Juha Kere
Nature Communications, 3 September 2015, doi: 10.1038/NCOMMS9207
Wednesday, 19 August 2015
Once licensed, model likely to accelerate study of Alzheimer’s, autism, more
Wednesday, 19 August 2015
Scientists at The Ohio State University have developed a nearly complete human brain in a dish that equals the brain maturity of a 5-week-old foetus.
The brain organoid, engineered from adult human skin cells, is the most complete human brain model yet developed, said Rene Anand, professor of biological chemistry and pharmacology at Ohio State.
The lab-grown brain, about the size of a pencil eraser, has an identifiable structure and contains 99 percent of the genes present in the human foetal brain. Such a system will enable ethical and more rapid and accurate testing of experimental drugs before the clinical trial stage and advance studies of genetic and environmental causes of central nervous system disorders.
“It not only looks like the developing brain, its diverse cell types express nearly all genes like a brain,” Anand said.
“We’ve struggled for a long time trying to solve complex brain disease problems that cause tremendous pain and suffering. The power of this brain model bodes very well for human health because it gives us better and more relevant options to test and develop therapeutics other than rodents.”
Anand reported on his lab-grown brain Tuesday (Aug. 18) at the 2015 Military Health System Research Symposium in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.
Anand, who studies the association between nicotinic receptors and central nervous system disorders, was inspired to pursue a model of human neural biology after encountering disappointing results in a rodent study of an experimental autism drug. Taking a chance with a shoestring budget compared to other researchers doing similar projects, he added stem-cell engineering to his research program. Four years later, he had built himself a replica of the human brain.
The main thing missing in this model is a vascular system. What is there – a spinal cord, all major regions of the brain, multiple cell types, signalling circuitry and even a retina – has the potential to dramatically accelerate the pace of neuroscience research, said Anand, also a professor of neuroscience.
“In central nervous system diseases, this will enable studies of either underlying genetic susceptibility or purely environmental influences, or a combination,” he said.
“Genomic science infers there are up to 600 genes that give rise to autism, but we are stuck there. Mathematical correlations and statistical methods are insufficient to in themselves identify causation. You need an experimental system – you need a human brain.”
Converting adult skin cells into pluripotent cells – immature stem cells that can be programmed to become any tissue in the body – is a rapidly developing area of science that earned the researcher who discovered the technique, Shinya Yamanaka, a Nobel Prize in 2012.
“Once a cell is in that pluripotent state, it can become any organ – if you know what to do to support it to become that organ,” Anand said.
“The brain has been the holy grail because of its enormous complexity compared to any other organ. Other groups are attempting to do this as well.”
Anand’s method is proprietary and he has filed an invention disclosure with the university.
He said he used techniques to differentiate pluripotent stem cells into cells that are designed to become neural tissue, components of the central nervous system or other brain regions.
“We provide the best possible environment and conditions that replicate what’s going on in utero to support the brain,” he said of the work he completed with colleague Susan McKay, a research associate in biological chemistry and pharmacology.
High-resolution imaging of the organoid identifies functioning neurons and their signal-carrying extensions – axons and dendrites – as well as astrocytes, oligodendrocytes and microglia. The model also activates markers for cells that have the classic excitatory and inhibitory functions in the brain, and that enable chemical signals to travel throughout the structure.
It takes about 15 weeks to build a model system developed to match the 5-week-old foetal human brain. Anand and McKay have let the model continue to grow to the 12-week point, observing expected maturation changes along the way.
“If we let it go to 16 or 20 weeks, that might complete it, filling in that 1 percent of missing genes. We don’t know yet,” he said.
He and McKay have already used the platform to launch their own projects, creating brain organoid models of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases and autism in a dish. They hope that with further development and the addition of a pumping blood supply, the model could be used for stroke therapy studies. For military purposes, the system offers a new platform for the study of Gulf War illness, traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Anand hopes his brain model could be incorporated into the Microphysiological Systems program, a platform the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is developing by using engineered human tissue to mimic human physiological systems.
Support for the work came from the Marci and Bill Ingram Research Fund for Autism Spectrum Disorders and the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center Research Fund.
Anand and McKay are co-founders of a Columbus-based start-up company, NeurXstem, to commercialize the brain organoid platform, and have applied for funding from the federal Small Business Technology Transfer program to accelerate its drug discovery applications.
Source: Ohio State University
Contact: Rene Anand
Friday, 7 August 2015
Chemical-only Cell Reprogramming Transforms Human and Mouse Skin Cells into Neurons
Friday, 07 August 2015
Two labs in China have independently succeeded in transforming skin cells into neurons using only a cocktail of chemicals, with one group using human cells from healthy individuals and Alzheimer's patients, and the other group using cells from mice. The two studies reinforce the idea that a purely chemical approach is a promising way to scale up cell reprogramming research that may avoid the technical challenges and safety concerns associated with the more popular method of using transcription factors. Both papers appear on August 6 in the journal Cell Stem Cell.
One of the challenges of forcing cells to change identity is that the cells you end up with may look normal but have different internal activities than their naturally forming counterparts. The two papers provide evidence that similar gene expression, action potentials, and synapse formation can be detected in transcription-factor-induced neurons as those generated from the chemical cocktails. (Both groups used mixtures of seven small molecules, but different recipes – outlined in detail in the supplemental information section of each paper – because they focused on different species.)
This is an image of mouse chemical-induced
neurons. Credit: Courtesy of Hongkui Deng.
"By coordinating multiple signalling pathways, these small molecules modulate neuronal transcription factor gene expression and thereby promote the neuronal cell transition."
The authors add that the direct conversion bypasses a proliferative intermediate progenitor stage, which circumvents safety issues posed by other reprogramming methods.
This is an image of human chemical induced
neurons. Credit: Courtesy of Gang Pei and
"In comparison with using transgenic reprogramming factors, the small molecules that are used in this chemical approach are cell permeable; cost-effective; and easy to synthesize, preserve, and standardize; and their effects can be reversible," says mouse study co-author Hongkui Deng of the Peking University Stem Cell Research Center.
"In addition, the use of small molecules can be fine-tuned by adjusting their concentrations and duration, and the approach bypasses the technical challenges and safety concerns of genetic manipulations, which may be promising in their future applications."
Deng worked for four years with Zhen Chai and Yang Zhao, also of Peking University, to identify the small molecules that could create chemically induced mouse neurons. Researchers had been close for years, but a transcription factor was always necessary to complete the transformation. Through many chemical screens they identified the key ingredient, I-BET151, which works to suppress transcription in skin cells. They then found the right steps and conditions to mature the neurons post-transformation.
The authors of both papers aim to learn more about the biology behind chemically induced reprogramming and to make the protocols more efficient. While their success is promising, there are still a number of hurdles to overcome.
"We hope in the future that the chemical approaches would be more robust in inducing functional mature neurons," Deng says.
"In addition, we are attempting to generate specific neuronal subtypes and patient-specific functional neurons for translational medicine by using pure chemicals."
Jian Zhao, of the human study, says:
"It should be possible to generate different subtypes of neurons with a similar chemical approach but using slightly modified chemical cocktails."
"It also needs to be explored whether functional neurons could be induced by chemical cocktails in living organisms with neurological diseases or injury," she adds.
Source: Cell Press
Contact: Joseph Caputo
Small-Molecule-Driven Direct Reprogramming of Mouse Fibroblasts into Functional Neurons
Xiang Li, Xiaohan Zuo, Junzhan Jing, Yantao Ma, Jiaming Wang, Defang Liu, Jialiang Zhu, Xiaomin Du, Liang Xiong, Yuanyuan Du, Jun Xu, Xiong Xiao, Jinlin Wang, Zhen Chai, Yang Zhao, Hongkui Deng
Cell Stem Cell Volume 17, Issue 2, p195–203, 6 August 2015
Direct Conversion of Normal and Alzheimer's Disease Human Fibroblasts into Neuronal Cells by Small Molecules
Wenxiang Hu, Binlong Qiu, Wuqiang Guan, Qinying Wang, Min Wang, Wei Li, Longfei Gao, Lu Shen, Yin Huang, Gangcai Xie, Hanzhi Zhao, Ying Jin, Beisha Tang, Yongchun Yu, Jian Zhao, Gang Pei
Cell Stem Cell Volume 17, Issue 2, p204–212, 6 August 2015
Wednesday, 5 August 2015
Scientists discover mechanism that may lead to more efficient reprogramming of somatic cells
Wednesday, 05 August 2015
Human embryonic stem cells have the potential
to form in vitro neural tube-like structures of the
embryo. Credit: Inserm/Benchoua Alexandra.
Totipotency vs pluripotency
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.
“Totipotency is a much more flexible state than the pluripotent state and its potential applications are extraordinary”, says Maria-Elena Torres-Padilla, who led the study.
Looking for the keys of totipotency
When culturing pluripotent stem cells in vitro, a small amount of totipotent cells appear spontaneously; these are called "2C-like cells" (named after their resemblance to the 2-cell stage embryo). The researchers compared these cells to those present in early embryos in order to find their common characteristics and those that make them different from pluripotent cells. In particular, the teams found that the DNA was less condensed in totipotent cells and that the amount of the protein complex CAF1 was diminished. A closer look revealed that CAF1 – already known for its role in the assembly of chromatin (the organised state of DNA) – is responsible for maintaining the pluripotent state by ensuring that the DNA is wrapped around histones. Based on this hypothesis, the Torres-Padilla team was able to induce a totipotent state by inactivating the expression of the CAF1 complex, which led to chromatin reprogramming into a less condensed state.
A 2C-like cell (green) is different from an
embryonic stem cell (magenta). Credit:
“One could imagine that if cells lose their ability to assemble chromatin, this would affect gene expression”, explains Cells-in-Motion PhD student Rocio Enriquez-Gasca of Juanma Vaquerizas’ lab, who performed the computational analyses of the work.
“So it was really exciting to realise that the resulting gene expression programme in fact significantly overlaps with that of early embryo, totipotent cells”.
Moreover, the teams found that specific classes of repetitive elements (repeated sequences of DNA that form around 50% of the mouse and human genomes) were also up-regulated in induced totipotent-like cells, a hallmark of the 2-cell embryo.
“The computational analysis of expression of repetitive elements is very challenging, since these are found many times in the genome”, says Juanma Vaquerizas.
“Now it is key to understand why these repetitive elements and gene expression programmes are both up-regulated in totipotent cells”.
These results provide new elements for the understanding of pluripotency and could increase the efficiency of reprogramming somatic cells to be used for applications in regenerative medicine.
Contact: Maria-Elena Torres-Padilla
Early embryonic-like cells are induced by down-regulation of replication-dependent chromatin assembly
Takashi Ishiuchi, Rocio Enriquez-Gasca, Eiji Mizutani, Ana Boškovi, Celine Ziegler-Birling, Diego Rodriguez-Terrones, Teruhiko Wakayama, Juan M. Vaquerizas & Maria-Elena Torres-Padilla
Nature Structural & Molecular Biology, 3 Aug 2015, doi:10.1038/nsmb.3066
Monday, 8 June 2015
Recovery of Sensory Function by Stem Cell Transplants
Monday, 08 June 2015
New research from Uppsala University shows promising progress in the use of stem cells for treatment of spinal cord injury. The results, which are published in the scientific journal Scientific Reports, show that human stem cells that are transplanted to the injured spinal cord contribute to restoration of some sensory functions.
Traffic accidents and severe falls can cause ruptures of nerve fibres that enter/exit the spinal cord. Most commonly, these avulsion injuries affect the innervation of the arm and hand, and lead to paralysis, loss of sensation and cause chronic pain. Surgical interventions can help the patient regain some muscle function, but there is currently no treatment able to restore sensory functions. The reason for this is the emergence of a "barrier" at the junction between the ruptured nerve fibres and the spinal cord which prevents them from growing into the spinal cord and restore lost nerve connections.
In a new study the PhD students Jan Hoeber, Niclas König and Carl Trolle, working in Dr.Elena Kozlova's research group transplanted human stem cells to an avulsion injury in mice with the aim to restore a functional route for sensory information from peripheral tissues into the spinal cord.
The results show that the transplanted stem cells act as a "bridge" which allows injured sensory nerve fibres to grow into the spinal cord, rebuilds functional nerve connections, and thereby achieve long term restoration of major parts of the lost sensory functions. The transplanted stem cells differentiated to different types of cells with variable level of maturation, specific for the nervous system. No signs of tumour development or any functional abnormalities from the transplants were observed in the study, outcomes which are important in view of potential risks with transplantation of embryonic stem cells.
The results encourage further research on the use of stem cells for treatment of injury and disease in the spinal cord, and may contribute to the development of novel treatment strategies in these disorders.
Source: Uppsala University
Contact: Elena Kozlova
Human embryonic stem cell-derived progenitors assist functional sensory regeneration after dorsal root avulsion injury
Hoeber J, Trolle C, König N, Du Z, Gallo A, Hermans E, Aldskogius H, Shortland P, Zheng, S-C, Deumens R, Kozlova EN.
Scientific Reports 5, 08 June 2015, Article number: 10666, doi:10.1038/srep10666
Thursday, 7 May 2015
Master Orchestrator of the Genome Is Discovered
Thursday, 07 May 2015
One of developmental biology’s most perplexing questions concerns what signals transform masses of undifferentiated cells into tremendously complex organisms, a process called ontogeny.
UB research suggests a new paradigm, visualized
in this diagram, for developmental global genome
programming by the nuclear FGFR1 protein.
“The finding provides a new level of understanding of the fundamental aspects of how organisms develop,” says senior author Michal K. Stachowiak, PhD, professor in the Department of Pathology and Anatomical Sciences in the UB School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences and senior author. He also directs the Stem Cell Engraftment and In Vivo Analysis Facility and the Stem Cell Culture and Training Facility at the Western New York Stem Cell Culture and Analysis Center at UB.
“Our research shows how a single growth factor receptor protein moves directly to the nucleus in order to program the entire genome,” he said.
Michal Stachowiak, PhD, Professor, Department
of Pathology and Anatomical Sciences.
A more advanced understanding of how organisms form, based on this work, has the potential to significantly enhance the understanding and treatment of cancers, which result from uncontrolled development as well as congenital diseases, the researchers say. The new research also will contribute to the understanding of how stem cells work.
This work was conducted on mouse embryonic stem cells, not human cells.
Organizing ‘this cacophony of genes’
“We’ve known that the human body has almost 30,000 genes that must be controlled by thousands of transcription factors that bind to those genes,” Stachowiak said, “yet we didn’t understand how the activities of genes were coordinated so that they properly develop into an organism.”
“Now we think we have discovered what may be the most important player, which organizes this cacophony of genes into a symphony of biological development with logical pathways and circuits,” he said.
At the centre of the discovery is a single protein called nuclear Fibroblast Growth Factor Receptor 1 (nFGFR1).
“FGFR1 occupies a position at the top of the gene hierarchy that directs the development of multicellular animals,” said Stachowiak.
The FGFR1 gene is known to govern gastrulation, occurring in early development, where the three-layered embryonic structure forms. It also plays a major role in the development of the central and peripheral nervous systems and the development of the body’s major systems, including muscles and bones.
To study how nuclear FGFR1 worked, the UB team used genome-wide sequencing of mouse embryonic stem cells programmed to develop cells of the nervous system, with additional experiments in which nuclear FGFR1 was either introduced or blocked. The researchers found that the protein was responsible, either alone or with so-called partner nuclear receptors, for ensuring that embryonic stem cells develop into differentiated cells. By targeting thousands of genes, it controls the development of the major points of growth in the body (known as axes) as well as neuronal and muscle development.
The research shows that nuclear FGFR1 binds to promoters of genes that encode transcription factors, the proteins that control which genes are turned on or off in the genome.
“We found that this protein works as a kind of ‘orchestration factor,’ preferably targeting certain gene promoters and enhancers. The idea that a single protein could bind thousands of genes and then organize them into a hierarchy, that was unknown,” Stachowiak said.
“Nobody predicted it.”
The discovery that a single protein can exert such a global genomic function stems from recent advances in DNA sequencing technologies, which allow for the sequencing of a complex genome in just hours.
“NextGen DNA sequencing allows us to analyse millions of DNA sequences selected by the interacting protein,” Stachowiak said.
In the UB research, the DNA sequencing data were processed by the supercomputer at the university’s Center for Computational Research (CCR). Stachowiak and his colleagues then spent weeks aligning these data to the genome and conducting further analyses.
“We imposed nuclear FGFR1 on every little corner of genome,” he said.
“The computer spit out which genes are affected by nuclear FGFR1: it was an enormously complex network of genome activity.”
They found that the protein binds to genes that make neurons and muscles as well as to an important oncogene, TP63, which is involved in a number of common cancers.
Other studies in Stachowiak’s laboratory demonstrate that these interactions also take place in the human genome, controlling function and possibly underlying diseases like schizophrenia. Targeting of the nuclear FGFR1 allows for the reactivation of neural development in the adult brain in preclinical studies and thus, Stachowiak says, may offer unprecedented opportunity for regenerative medicine. Nuclear accumulation of nuclear FGFR1 may be altered in some cancer cells, and thus could become a focus in cancer therapy, he added.
“This seminal discovery lends new perspectives to the origin, nature and treatment of a variety of human disease,” Stachowiak concluded.
Source: University at Buffalo, New York
Contact: Ellen Goldbaum
Global Developmental Gene Programing Involves a Nuclear Form of Fibroblast Growth Factor Receptor-1 (FGFR1)
Christopher Terranova,Sridhar T. Narla, Yu-Wei Lee, Jonathan Bard, Abhirath Parikh, Ewa K. Stachowiak, Emmanuel S. Tzanakakis, Michael J. Buck, Barbara Birkaya, Michal K. Stachowiak
PLoS ONE 2015 10(4):e0123380, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0123380
Salk Institute scientists discover new type of stem cell that could potentially generate mature, functional tissues
Thursday, 07 May 2015
Scientists at the Salk Institute have discovered a novel type of pluripotent stem cell – cells capable of developing into any type of tissue – whose identity is tied to their location in a developing embryo. This contrasts with stem cells traditionally used in scientific study, which are characterized by their time-related stage of development.
In the paper, published May 6, 2015 in Nature, the scientists report using these new stem cells to develop the first reliable method for integrating human stem cells into nonviable mouse embryos in a laboratory dish in such a way that the human cells began to differentiate into early-stage tissues.
“The region-specific cells we found could provide tremendous advantages in the laboratory to study development, evolution and disease, and may offer avenues for generating novel therapies,” says Salk Professor Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte, senior author of the paper and holder of Salk’s Roger Guillemin Chair.
The researchers dubbed this new class of cells “region-selective pluripotent stem cells,” or rsPSCs for short. The rsPSCs were easier to grow in the laboratory than conventional human pluripotent stem cells and offered advantages for large-scale production and gene editing (altering a cell’s DNA), both desirable features for cell replacement therapies.
Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte and Jun Wu
Credit: Courtesy of the Salk Institute for
They then inserted the spatially oriented human stem cells (human rsPSCs) into specific regions of partially dissected mouse embryos and cultured them in a dish for 36 hours. Separately, they also inserted human stem cells cultured using conventional methods, so that they could compare existing techniques to their new technique.
While the human stem cells derived through conventional methods failed to integrate into the modified embryos, the human rsPSCs began to develop into early stage tissues. The cells in this region of an early embryo undergo dynamic changes to give rise to all cells, tissues and organs of the body. Indeed the human rsPSCs began the process of differentiating into the three major cell layers in early development, known as ectoderm, mesoderm and endoderm. The Salk researchers stopped the cells from differentiating further, but each germ layer was theoretically capable of giving rise to specific tissues and organs.
The new stem cell (green), developed at the Salk
Institute, holds promise for one day growing
replacement functional cells and tissues. Credit:
Courtesy of the Salk Institute for Biological
“The region selective-state of these stem cells is entirely novel for laboratory-cultured stem cells and offers important insight into how human stem cells might be differentiated into derivatives that give rise to a wide range of tissues and organs,” says Jun Wu, a postdoctoral researcher in Izpisua Belmonte’s lab and first author of the new paper.
“Not only do we need to consider the timing, but also the spatial characteristics of the stem cells. Understanding both aspects of a stem cell’s identity could be crucial to generate functional and mature cell types for regenerative medicine.”
Source: Salk Institute
Contact: Salk Communications
An alternative pluripotent state confers interspecies chimaeric competency
Authors: Jun Wu, Daiji Okamura, Mo Li, Keiichiro Suzuki, Chongyuan Luo,Li Ma, Yupeng He, Zhongwei Li, Chris Benner, Isao Tamura, Marie N. Krause, Joseph R. Nery, Tingting Du, Zhuzhu Zhang, Tomoaki Hishida, Yuta Takahashi, Emi Aizawa, Na Young Kim, Jeronimo Lajara, Pedro Guillen, Josep M. Campistol, Concepcion Rodriguez Esteban, Pablo J. Ross, Alan Saghatelian, Bing Ren, Joseph R. Ecker and Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte
Nature, 06 May 2015, doi:10.1038/nature14413