January 27, 2021

The Niche

Trusted stem cell blog & resources

This week we have some interesting new reading including both on the stem cell basic and translational fronts as well as on COVID-19 vaccines.

COVID-19 vaccine considerations

From Derek Lowe at In The Pipeline on COVID-19 vaccine expectations at Science Translational Medicine, Get Ready for False Side Effects.

You can read my views on possible side effects of RNA-based COVID-19 vaccines, which I conclude are low or hypothetical.

lu et al nature eye regeneration, stem cell treatment
“Representative confocal images of longitudinal sections through the optic nerve showing CTB-labelled axons in 12-month-old (old) mice, 5 weeks post-crush, with AAV2-mediated expression of either GFP or OSK. Representative results from n = 5 eyes.” Lu et, al. Nature eye regeneration. Fig. 1f.

Stem cell tinkering and aging

From Heidi Ledford at Nature, Reversal of biological clock restores vision in old mice. ‘Reprogramming’ approach seems to make old cells young again.

This is very cool work in mice. What about in us humans?

Here’s the original research pub. They used the standard OSK IPS-type reprogramming cocktail but without Myc, and a major target was DNA methylation. See a screenshot of part of Fig. 1f above.

Retraction Watch busy on the stem cell front

Probably most of you are familiar with Retraction Watch, but if you aren’t, it’s a website on publishing problems including most prominently retractions, but also corrections and such. It’s a great site. Recently Retraction Watch has had a flurry of stem cell activity:

Cancer stem cells

Glioblastoma stem cells induce quiescence in surrounding neural stem cells via Notch signaling, G&D. The interactions between glioma and surrounding brain tissue and cells including functional interconnectivity is one of the more exciting areas of research on glioma today. I haven’t read this one yet but wonder how quiescent surrounding cells would be a helpful microenvironment for cancer stem cells.

That big AI protein structure news: oversold or revolutionary?

‘The game has changed.’ AI triumphs at solving protein structures, Science. This sounds almost too good to be true. No paper has been published yet, but I do think this will help the structural biology field a great deal. It’s just being oversold somewhat most likely. At least that’s my first take as a non-structural biologist. I’ve posted a YouTube video from the DeepMind group on their work above.

Stem cell banking

Stem cell preservation for regenerative therapies: ethical and governance considerations for the health care sector, npj Regenerative Medicine. This is a helpful piece by Zubin Master, et al, in which the authors discuss social and ethical issues related to cryopreserving stem cells. In some cases, I wonder if this also ends up, for everyday people, a question of “Preserve your stem cells versus preserve more of your bank account”?

Cell tension

Differentiated Daughter Cells Regulate Stem Cell Proliferation and Fate through Intra-tissue Tension, Cell Stem Cell. There have been several papers in the last few weeks on cellular mechanics and biophysics in a sense that I have thought were very interesting.

CRISPR soldiers of the future?

The media has gone a little bonkers on a report about China supposedly being interested in using CRISPR gene editing to make “better” soldiers. Here’s an example from NBC: China has done human testing to create biologically enhanced super soldiers, says top U.S. official.

From the piece:

“While the potential leveraging of CRISPR to increase human capabilities on the future battlefield remains only a hypothetical possibility at the present, there are indications that Chinese military researchers are starting to explore its potential,” wrote the scholars, Elsa Kania, an expert on Chinese defense technology at the Center for a New American Security, and Wilson VornDick, a consultant on China matters and former Navy officer.”

A commenter here on The Niche brought up this kind of possibility more generally some years back.