September 27, 2020

The Niche

Knoepfler lab stem cell blog

Stem cell news bites: Astellas trial, cystic fibrosis claim, a few cool papers

Matoba, et al, Figure 2c 2018
Matoba, et al, Figure 2c 2018

Stem cell news is always burbling up, sometimes right there in front of us on the web and other times via networks of people.

Astellas news. Some may remember there used to be this pioneering stem cell biotech called ACT, which then became Ocata, and finally was acquired by the big company Astellas. One of their areas of focus was on using pluripotent stem cells for macular degeneration. The driving scientific force was (and is) Dr. Robert Lanza. About a year ago I had a very brief update from Bob on where things stood then at Astellas, but now thanks a reader, we have some new stem cell news here and know that there’s an updated active trial listing for Astellas for the former ACT/Ocata-related work. The actual study start date is now listed as just last month. Take a look if you’re interested in the details, but I’d say this is a small bit of encouraging news.

Cystic fibrosis. I occasionally look in Google News for stem cell-related headlines and while often there are interesting developments there, unfortunately it’s also common to find evidence of media science hype too. A media headline about stem cells and cystic fibrosis kind of set off the hype-meter, “Breakthrough in stem cell research could lead to cure for cystic fibrosis.” “Cure” can be a dangerous word when it comes to talking about basic research. To be clear, this is interesting, but way too early days for “cure” talk and it’s not a “breakthrough” yet. From the news article:

“As reported in the journal Stem Cell Research and Therapy, the team found that the transplantation method, which involved using a marker gene in place of the corrective cystic fibrosis gene, was successful in a mouse model.”

This is an admittedly nifty mouse study, but because it’s in mice and uses a marker gene, there’s a very long road ahead before even remotely getting close to the clinic (the paper itself is here). Note that some folks are also excited about using CRISPR for cystic fibrosis as well.

And now some cool recent pubs:

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