Weekly reads: fibroblasts, gene-editing, Mitalipov, personhood, embryos

I have a soft spot for fibroblasts, perhaps because one of the first immortalized cell lines I ever grew was NIH3T3. These are mouse fibroblasts that have been immortalized. They are very useful for a variety of experiments. I used them to study an oncogene called E2A-PBX1.

NIH 3T3 fibroblasts ATCC
NIH 3T3 fibroblasts. Image from ATCC.

Experience with fibroblasts including 3T3s

I was amazed at how well 3T3s grew beyond a few weeks as compared to the human umbilical vein cord endothelial cells (HUVECs) I had grown earlier in my career as a technician.  While the mortal HUVECs inevitably pooped out, the 3T3s kept on trucking. Same for the HEK 293T cells that I started growing shortly after the 3T3s, except HEKs grow even faster. (Note that HEKs have been crucial for so much life-saving research including work related to COVID vaccines.) Of course, the tradeoff is that cells like HEKs and 3T3s are abnormal. You can read about the history of NIH 3T3s, which is kind of fun.

As the years go by we’re realizing that fibroblasts aren’t just structural cells. They do all kinds of interesting things including functions with disease relevance like cancer. Note that many preps of MSCs actually have many fibroblasts in them. Both MSCs and fibroblasts can aid growth of neighboring cancer cells via secreting specific factors so that’s something to think about translationally.

I’m going to start the weekly reads with some gene-editing papers but then I’ve got two new pubs in Cell Stem Cell on fibroblasts.

Fibroblasts pubs

Wound healing, fibroblast heterogeneity, and fibrosis, Cell Stem Cell.

Lymphatics and fibroblasts support intestinal stem cells in homeostasis and injury, Cell Stem Cell.

Gene editing, embryo work

Edits to a cholesterol gene could stop the biggest killer on earth, MIT Tech. Antonio’s article discusses a new clinical experiment from Verve Therapeutics to address unhealthy cholesterol profiles in people.

FDA Slaps CRISPR Cousin With A Hold; Beam Therapeutics Stock Drops, Investor’s Business Daily.

Researchers revive abandoned technique in effort to make artificial human eggs in a test tube, STAT News. There are major risks to this line of research from the lab of Shoukhrat Mitalipov toward hoped for new approaches to infertility. The safety issues alone just for fertility approaches are daunting. You’d have to generate actual babies or at least pregnancies with the new methods. If things went wrong, the impact could be awful in many ways, harming public trust in research. Then more broadly some of the methods could also be used for human cloning.

With innovative bioreactor as womb, mouse stem cells transform into organ-filled embryos, Science.

1 thought on “Weekly reads: fibroblasts, gene-editing, Mitalipov, personhood, embryos”

  1. The recent argument that a synthetic embryo is not a real embryo because it’s origin lacks sperm or egg is not scientific. Science would show that if the DNA is human and the product is functional, it is a human embryo. We don’t deny the existence of any other animal just because a technical paradigm shift can give rise to new life. We don’t act like cardiomyocytes differentiated from iPSC are not real cells, due to origin, because everyone transplanting them is betting on them being real. Recent semantics cannot escape practical functional reality. The thirst for knowledge walks a fine line between reason and taboo, but evasive messaging will only hurt progress in the long term.

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