October 26, 2020

The Niche

Knoepfler lab stem cell blog

Stem cell reads: IPS cells, p53, mini-livers, baldness

We’ve had another week of interesting stem cell news and papers. Here is an aggregate of the stem cell and regenerative medicine week that was.

Stem cell therapy for baldness

I’ve covered stem cells for hair loss for about a decade here on The Niche. While it seems like it’s taken a long time for this work to advance, there has been concrete progress. From Nature News, Regenerative medicine could pave the way to treating baldness.

Here’s the actual Nature paper in question: Hair-bearing human skin generated entirely from pluripotent stem cells. It’s important to remember that baldness doesn’t just afflict people with aging, but also occurs as a result of certain injuries like burns, due to cancer treatments, and in some syndromes. A stem cell treatment for baldness could be one of the first new blockbuster areas of regenerative medicine.

Mini-liver like structure produced made from human IPS cells. Photo Credit: University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.

The 1st FDA cleared IND for an IPS cell product

“Fate Therapeutics Announces FDA Clearance of IND Application for FT538, First CRISPR-edited, iPSC-derived Cell Therapy”.  From the firm’s PR:

“the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has cleared the Company’s Investigational New Drug (IND) application for FT538, the first CRISPR-edited, iPSC-derived cell therapy. FT538 is an off-the-shelf natural killer (NK) cell cancer immunotherapy that is derived from a clonal master induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) line engineered with three functional components to enhance innate immunity: a novel high-affinity, non-cleavable CD16 (hnCD16) Fc receptor; an IL-15/IL-15 receptor fusion (IL-15RF); and the elimination of CD38 expression.”

It’s great to see IPS cell-based medical technologies advancing and engineered NK cell products are rightly getting more attention in the cancer field.

I had a couple news items on Fate’s advances through the FDA IND clearance process in 2019.

The role of p53 in IPS cells

What does p53 does in pluripotent stem cells and in particular, is p53 essential for DNA damage‐induced apoptosis? Its roles are examined in a new paper published in the journal Stem Cells.

The pub was covered by Gen Engineering News.

I’m really fascinated by what normal p53 is up to in stem cells and of course what mutated p53 does in tumors. This paper helps us understand things better, but maybe we still have to say overall “it’s complicated” in terms of its stem cell functions.

Funds for ViaCyte, stem cell therapy for diabetes

In a boost for ViaCyte, the firm “Adds $27M to Move Ahead Trio of Stem Cell Diabetes Treatments”.The stem cell-diabetes arena has made some real progress in recent years in getting things translated into clinical trials. As we all know the clinical trial process is incredibly expensive so seeing big funds to support a firm like ViaCyte is encouraging.

Bacteria living in tumors and inside tumor cells

Bacteria living in tumors could impact how patients fare. The human tumor microbiome is composed of tumor type–specific intracellular bacteria. As a cancer survivor myself and a cancer researcher, the idea of bacteria contributing to tumor development and clinical outcomes is particularly interesting.

Transplants of stem cell derived mini-livers

From the CIRM blog they have a post “Mini” human liver made of stem cells successfully transplanted in rats.

Liver disease is a huge and growing problem around the world. I just saw a talk about mechanisms in non-alcoholic fatty liver disease that got me thinking about the urgent need for new medical advances in this area. From CIRM:

“Using human skin cells from volunteers, Dr. Alejandro Soto-Gutierrez and his team of researchers were able to create “mini” livers which were successfully transplanted into rats. In this proof of concept experiment, the “mini” livers survived inside the rats for four days. Additionally, they secreted bile acids and urea and produced proteins similar to a normal liver. Normally, liver maturation takes up to two years in a natural environment, but Dr. Soto-Gutierrez and his team were able to do this in under a month.”

This is another notable IPS cell advance. Such work may not only lead to transplants some day of mini-organs (see image above), but also can be used for disease modeling and drug screening for liver disease.

What did you think were notable new papers or news that I didn’t mention?