TGIF: stem cell headline weekly review for May 11

Of course stem cells and their caretakers never sleep or take the weekend off, right? But still TGIF!

Last week we had some really good and some ugly stem cell headlines that I covered here.

How was this week?

Good. ES cell differentiation requires chromatin compaction. A PLoS Genetics paper by a team led by Yuhong Fan at GIT indicates that loss of a number of histone H1subtypes interfered with chromatin compaction in ES cells and subsequently the knockout cells failed to differentiate normally in the neural lineage. I think this is fascinating and has many implications more broadly for links between chromatin structure and pluripotency.

Good, but preliminary. Scientists at my postdoctoral alma mater, the Hutch in Seattle, reported some evidence that genetically modified hematopoietic stem cells might be protective for glioblastoma patients receiving chemo.

Good, but too al dente (i.e. not quite ready yet). More progress in growing teeth from stem cells…will they be sweet teeth?

Bad and maybe good….or who the heck knows. There was a big media splash and concurrent run up in the stock price of Pluristem after they reported that they saved the life of a very sick little girl in Jerusalem using their PLX cell product.  What could be bad about that right? Well, the only problem is that as best as I can tell there is no clear scientific evidence that the PLX treatment is actually what saved the girl. PLX is a placental stem cell product injected intramuscularly. I hope that the PLX really did save the girl, but for now one has to say this is hype. In either case, I wish her all the best!

A bit worrisome. ACT’s financials for the first quarter of 2012 reportedly are a bit worse than last year. The stock (ACTC) has been on a mostly one-way downhill streak of late, closing at just under 8 cents, without any clear reason for the downward trend. Some good news is that they ended the quarter with almost $11 million in cash so that lends some stability to the only company currently conducting FDA approved clinical trials on ESC-based treatments of any kind. In ACT’s case, the trials are for macular degeneration.

Ugly? No truly ugly headlines this week as best as I can tell. That’s something to celebrate….we may pay extra next week however with a higher dose of dumbness in the headlines.

2 Comments


  1. ACT is stuck in a strange place for the moment. The retail shareholders are tapped out and don’t have the financial horsepower to sustain the share price, and the company is still on the OTC board, where large funds can’t purchase the stock. But the CEO is moving the firm toward a listing on NASDAQ, and is in talks about a joint venture with various big pharma firms. IMHO, things will look a lot better in late summer / early fall. The scientific news continues to be very encouraging, as the company now has trials going at the most prestigious eye institutes in the world, and all patients seem to be tolerating the therapy well, and are reporting improvement in visual acuity.


  2. ACTC share price decline has everything to do with the reverse split so they can list on the NASDAQ. The CEO wants to list the stock on the Nasdaq and at a $5.00 price so big institutional buyers can buy the stock. He has left the current shareholders in a tough spot. After the reverse split and the listing on the NASDAQ. ACTC will be able to raise capital in the capital markets with a secondary. ACTC cash burn rate is increasing as the trials expand but their burn rate is lower than most companies in clinical trials. ACTC will become investible post reverse split and post secondary after they are on the NASDAQ. The CEO would have served his shareholders better if he followed the Dr. West example with BIO TIME listing on the AMEX.

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