TGIF Weekend Science Reads: stem cells, PRP, CIRM, CRISPR, & more

Sun, et al, PNAS 2018, part of Fig 1
Sun, et al, PNAS 2018, part of Fig 1

What do you read on the weekend?

I wish for me it was at least in part some contemporary novel or science fiction, but that’s rare. More often than not it is almost all science. I do read the Sunday NY Times at least. I usually accumulate things during the week that I want to try to take a look at over the weekend (on top of the usual load of work like grant and paper reviews, writing of our own lab’s science, etc.) ranging from actual research articles to reviews to media pieces on science.

Here are some TGIF weekend reads for the weekend starting after midnight tonight, Friday August 17 unless you want to start early over a beer tonight.

Vision. “Stem cell treatment restores some vision in blind mice”. Many of us have hope for stem cells for various forms of vision loss in humans related to ongoing clinical trials. Much of the clinical trial work germinates from earlier model studies.

What’s CRISPR-SKIP? Check out this new paper that reports base editing mediated exon skipping: CRISPR-SKIP: programmable gene splicing with single base editors.

PRP. Here’s one that’ll make some stem cell clinics unhappy: Platelet-rich plasma does not promote stem cell-mediated cartilage repair. Clinics and even some university physicians are using PRP for all kinds of things including supposedly juicing up the power of stem cells to fix orthopedic injuries such as to joints. This new pub should spark some more sober reflection. PRP may have some healing potential, but it’s hyped too much and probably over-used.

State Medical Boards. “State Boards Turn Blind Eye to FDA-Sanctioned Docs.” An interesting investigative piece suggesting a troubling disconnect between the FDA and state medical boards. One section of this piece is on Thomas Gionis, a stem cell clinic doctor who a couple years ago got a warning letter from the FDA. He reportedly told the authors of this new piece by phone that “We’re not involved in that anymore.” before hanging up. There was some uncertainty if this physician or his previous clinics might still be doing stem cell stuff, but it looks like perhaps not so that’s notable. A recent FSMB report suggested that state medical boards might do more on stem cells. We’ll see.

Regeneration. “When it comes to regrowing tails, neural stem cells are the key.” How do some animals like lizards or salamanders such as axolotls regrow body parts like tails? Here we get more insights. Here’s the new PNAS paper itself. See a really cool part of Fig. 1 above from Sun, et al. comparing regenerated lizard and salamander tails with one notable difference being neural stem cell presence.

Micropatterning. “Bioengineers borrow from electronics industry to get stem cells to shape up”. I find the connection between electricity and stem cells more generally to be really interesting, even though that’s not what (as I thought originally from the title) that this linked to article is actually about. Micropatterning is pretty neat too and despite my skepticism, growing stem cells and other cells in confined, defined shapes (as has been reported by other groups) may some uses.

CIRM keeps pumping out funding for new, cool research even if such funding is now sometimes being pared back by the Board of the state stem cell agency. Here is a direct link to some of CIRM’s newest grants that are in the pre-active phase including one focus on trying to develop a new treatment for mutant histone H3.3 gliomas by the lab of Hideho Okada at UCSF.

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