Latest news: Research on stem cells

Maximising the Potential of Stem Cell Therapy

Lisa Smith

Research into stem cell biology and the regulation of cellular pluripotency yields information about a wide range of biological functions, diseases and disorders, promising new treatments and providing a basis for the testing of new drugs.
The three therapies so far approved for clinical trials have involved the transplantation of differentiated stem cell derivatives for the treatment of spinal injury, diabetes, and macular degeneration.
The question of safety is raised, among other reasons, because undifferentiated human pluripotent stem cells are known to have caused tumours in immunodeficient mice. The potential for such therapies to lead to tumours in humans may therefore exist where transplanted cell populations still contain undifferentiated cells. In addition, further concerns have been raised by the discovery of genomic aberrations in stem cell lines which are not well understood.
Despite the fact that any therapy approved by the FDA would have to show during preclinical trials that it did not lead to tumours, these concerns have led to a lot of negative hype.
Scientists from The Scripps Research Institute have helped to separate fact from fear, investigating the circumstances under which treatments using stem cells could potentially lead to the formation of tumours in humans, and proposing guidelines to ensure the integrity of stem cell samples, thereby minimising the tumorigenic potential of stem cell therapies.
Briefly, they suggested that: stem cell differentiation strategies should include a step to eliminate undifferentiated cells; culture time should be minimized to reduce this known significant risk factor; cells with genomic alterations should be screened out prior to cell transplantation.
Dr. Suzanne Peterson, the first author of the study, helped to clarify these strategies and how they could work:
Could you comment on the problems with current differentiation techniques and how your suggested steps will guide both researchers and clinicians to better practices?
Developing protocols that can be used to differentiate stem cells into clinically relevant cell types are huge achievements. However, there is an additional step that needs to take place: we need to make sure that those cells will be safe when transplanted into patients……..
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Source: Advanced Science News