December 1, 2020

The Niche

Knoepfler lab stem cell blog

diana farmer and aijun wang uc davis, CIRM grant
Diana farmer and Aijun Wang of UC Davis recently received a large CIRM grant for a clinical study of a cellular therapy for spina bifida.

There have been many other interesting scientific and specifically regenerative medicine developments and papers this past week including with CIRM and exciting CIRM funding to UC Davis so read on, but first a somewhat random question: are you more of a cat person or dog person?

I’d say I’m both.

But our big dog is not a fan of cats so I have to get my random cat time in on walks if I happen to run into a cat.

I crossed paths with a friendly neighbor cat a few days ago and it wanted lots of attention so I got my approximately yearly “cat fix” in by petting it.

I thought I’d start today’s weekly reads post with a piece about cats.

What are you reading this week? Chime in with your recommended reads in the comments.

Cats and dogs

So do you buy the argument of a new Nat Geo post entitled: Cats domesticated themselves?

I wouldn’t put it past them, but self-domestication is a new kind of concept to me. The article is an interesting read.

For fun I’ve posted a YouTube video below I shot of a kitten acrobatically trying to catch dragonflies a few years back. The end is especially cool with some slo-mo of the biggest jumps.

Contrast the cat history with this new Nature paper on tracing the dog genome, comparing domesticated dogs to wolves.

CIRM gets new round of funding and $9 million CIRM grant to UC Davis

  • Here in California, Proposition 14 to refund CIRM with more than $5 billion was officially called as passing. I’m going to write more about what this means for the regenerative medicine field soon.
  • A team of my colleagues here at UC Davis led by Diana Farmer and Aijun Wang received a $9 million grant from CIRM to fund their groundbreaking regenerative medicine approach to spina bifida. It’s exciting work so check it out.

COVID update

Pill used to treat OCD and anxiety may prevent Covid-19 from worsening, a preliminary study suggests, STAT News. It’s remarkable just how many different approaches are being studied for potentially treating or preventing the novel coronavirus disease. I wonder if any of the more unusual ones will pan out?

Stem cells for Multiple Sclerosis

Cancer

Persistent Cancer Cells: The Deadly Survivors, Cell, review. Among the persistent cancer cells after treatments like surgery, radiation, and chemo are what we call cancer stem cells or tumor initiating cells. How do we target these guys? As both a cancer and stem cell researcher as well as a cancer survivor, I often think about this question. Also, just more generally: how many cancer cells persist depending on the treatment?

Can certain treatments actually cause some cells to be more stem cell-like and persistent? It seems so in some specific cases such as with certain breast cancers, but often the treatment is essential to improve survival.

MUSE cells, mouse ALS study

More has popped up on so-called MUSE cells. I’ve had some concerns about MUSE cells.

I’ve called these purported stress-resistant, adult pluripotent stem cells and their possible relatives VSELs by the name “the Sasquatch of the stem cell field” because they seem so nebulous.

But new trials and papers on MUSE cells keep coming. The latest is a paper reporting on transplantation of MUSE cells in a mouse ALS model. Therapeutic benefit of Muse cells in a mouse model of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Scientific Reports. Am I wrong to be so skeptical?

There’s a lot in this paper, but one question that always comes up is what exactly the “MUSE cells” are that are talked about in this paper.

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