Stem Cells May Reverse Age-Related Multiple Sclerosis Effects

Proof-of-principle study provides hope for stimulating remyelination

Scientists at Joslin Diabetes Center, Harvard University, and the University of Cambridge have found that the age-related impairment of the body’s ability to replace protective myelin sheaths, which normally surround nerve fibers and allow them to send signals properly, may be reversible, offering new hope that therapeutic strategies aimed at restoring efficient regeneration can be effective in the central nervous system throughout life.

In a proof-of-principle study published in the journal Cell Stem Cell, the researchers report that defects in the regeneration of the myelin sheaths surrounding nerves, which are lost in diseases such as multiple sclerosis may be at least partially corrected following exposure of an old animal to the circulatory system of a young animal. Myelin is a fatty substance that protects nerves and aids in the quick transmission of signals between nerve cells.

Using a surgical technique, the researchers introduced an experimental demyelinating injury in the spinal cord of an old mouse, creating small areas of myelin loss, and then exposed those areas to cells found the blood of a young mouse. By doing so, they found that the influx of certain immune cells, called macrophages, from the young mouse helped resident stem cells restore effective remyelination in the old mouse’s spinal cord. This “rejuvenating” effect of young immune cells was mediated in part by the greater efficiency of the young cells in clearing away myelin debris created by the demyelinating injury. Prior studies have shown that this debris impedes the regeneration of myelin.

“Aging impairs regenerative potential in the central nervous system,” says author Amy J. Wagers, PhD, an associate professor of stem cell and regenerative biology at Harvard University and Joslin, who co-led the study with Professor Robin Franklin, director of the MS Society’s Cambridge Centre for Myelin Repair at the University of Cambridge. “This impairment can be reversed, however, suggesting that the eventual development of cell-based or drug-based interventions that mimic the rejuvenation signals found in our study could be used therapeutically.”

This could be particularly useful, she adds, in treating MS, which typically spans many decades of life, and thus is likely to be influenced by age-dependent reductions in the ability of myelin to regenerate. In MS, the body’s own immune system attacks the myelin sheath and prevents nerve fibers in the brain from sending signals properly, which can cause mild symptoms such as limb numbness or more serious ones like losing the ability to walk or speak. As people with MS age, remyelination decreases significantly, eventually causing permanent loss of nerve fibers.

“For MS sufferers,” says Franklin, “this means that, in theory, regenerative therapies will work throughout the duration of the disease. Specifically, it means that remyelination therapies do not need to be based on stem cell transplantation since the stem cells already present in the brain and spinal cord can be made to regenerate myelin, regardless of a person’s age.”

Other Joslin co-authors of the study were Tata Nageswara Rao and Jennifer L. Shadrach.

About Joslin Diabetes Center
Joslin Diabetes Center, located in Boston, Massachusetts, is the world’s preeminent diabetes research and clinical care organization. Joslin is dedicated to ensuring that people with diabetes live long, healthy lives and offers real hope and progress toward diabetes prevention and a cure. Joslin is an independent, nonprofit institution affiliated with Harvard Medical School.

Healing juices’ of stem cells could help treat asthma

Research suggests future use of cells in kidney, heart disease
BY BRENT WITTMEIER, EDMONTON JOURNAL DECEMBER 2, 2011

University of Alberta pediatric asthma researcher says that the medical benefits of stem cells may lie in their by-product “healing juices”.

Dr. Bernard Thébaud believes the by-products of mesenchymal stem cells – found in umbilical cord tissue and with known anti-inflammatory characteristics – could possibly heal lungs inflamed by chronic and acute asthma.

The findings, published in the American Journal of Respiratory Cell and Molecular Biology, look at the effects of what Thébaud called “healing juices” on refractory asthma, a form of the disease that is particularly difficult to treat with inhalers.

Thébaud, a neonatal pediatrician and professor of pediatrics at the University of Alberta Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry, said the cells and their juices are easily isolated and cultivated in the lab.

“We cultured the cells in the petri dish, and instead of taking the cells, we just took what the cells produced, the juice they were basically swimming in,” Thébaud said. “We compared that to control cells cultured the same way, but didn’t have that same effect.”

Thébaud’s team created asthma in lab mice, then injected the juices through their noses. The by-products opened airways, restored breathing and reduced inflammation in their lungs.

Thébaud began researching pediatric lung disease in 2002, adding the “exciting” discipline of stem-cell research two years later. The new study builds on some of Thébaud’s previous research into how stem cells work.

“Initially we thought you have to give the cells (to the patient) because they replace dead cells,” he said. “That’s not actually the case.”

Thébaud initially used the mesenchymal stem cells in a study of newborn lung injury, discovering “tremendous benefits” for the health of the lungs. But when his research team tried to see where those stem cells were, they couldn’t find them.

“Maybe they don’t replace dead cells. Maybe they sit there and produce juices, then vanish,” he said.

Although the research is still at an early stage, Thébaud said his hope is for a “super-inhaler” five to 10 years from now that would heal inflammation, boost healthy cells and aid in breathing. He hopes to live the researcher’s dream and drive the discovery from his lab into the clinic.

His goal “would be to have a puffer with stem cell by-products that would prevent those symptoms of asthma,” he said.

Thébaud is convinced it could work. But exactly which compounds or factors are doing the “healing” is hardly academic, and will likely form the next stage in the research.

“It is the question,” said Thébaud. “First, we have to know should we not give the cells, or can we just deliver the juices. Do we have to know what’s in there?”

That question could also delay clinical research by an additional five years, the time he estimates it would take to synthesize the factor pharmaceutically. He will be discussing the study with Health Canada to determine barriers to clinical research using just undifferentiated by-products.

Thébaud also believes the approach demonstrates “many therapeutic avenues” beyond asthma, which affects an estimated 300 million people worldwide. The potential of stem-cell research isn’t yet known.

“It’s up to us now to harness the healing powers of these cells,” he said.

“We know it works in a variety of lung diseases. By extension, we know it will work in kidney, or heart or brain disease as well.”

2011-12-06T19:10:31+00:00 December 6th, 2011|Adult Stem Cells, Asthma, News, Stem Cell Research|

Immune Cells Killing Stem Cells and Stem Cells Killing Immune Cells

Knight et al. J Neurol Sci.
Several studies have demonstrated that stem cells are useful in the treatment of multiple sclerosis. The Cellmedicine clinic published previously in collaboration with the University of California San Diego that 3 patients treated with their own fat derived stem cells entered remission. Other studies are ongoing, including a study at the Cleveland Clinic in which bone marrow stem cells differentiated into mesenchymal stem cells are being administered into patients with multiple sclerosis. Unfortunately the mechanisms by which therapeutic effects occur are still largely unknown. One general school of thought believes that stem cells are capable of differentiating into damaged brain cells. The other school of thought believes that stem cells are capable of producing numerous growth factors, called trophic factors, that mediate therapeutic activity of the stem cells. Yet another school of thought propagates the notion that stem cells are merely immune modulatory cells. Before continuing, it is important to point out that stem cell therapy for multiple sclerosis involving autologous hematopoietic transplants is different than what we are discussing here. Autologous (your own) hematopoietic stem cell therapy is not based on regenerating new tissues, but to achieve the objective of extracting cells from a patients, purifying blood making (hematopoietic) stem cells, destroying the immune system of the recipient so as to wipe out the multiple sclerosis causing T cells, and subsequently readministering the patient’s own cells in order to regenerate the immune system. This approach, which was made popular by Dr. Richard Burt from Northwestern University.
In order to assess mechanisms of how stem cells work in multiple sclerosis it is necessary to induce the disease in animals. The most widely used animal model of multiple sclerosis is the experimental allergic encephalomyelitis model. This disease is induced in female mice that are genetically bred to have a predisposition to autoimmunity. These animals are immunized with myelin basic protein or myelin oligodendrocyte protein. Both of these proteins are components of the myelin sheath that protects the axons. In multiple sclerosis immune attack occurs against components of the myelin sheath. Therefore immunizing predisposed animals to components of the myelin sheath induces a disease similar to multiple sclerosis. The EAE model has been critical in development of some of the currently used treatments for multiple sclerosis such as copaxone and interferon.
Original studies have demonstrated that administration of bone marrow derived mesenchymal stem cells protects mice from development of EAE. This protection was associated with regeneration on oligodendrocytes as well as shifts in immune response. Unfortunately these studies did not decipher whether the protective effects of the stem cells were mediated by immune modulation, regeneration, or a combination of both. Other studies have shown that MSC derived from adipose tissue had a similar effect. One interesting point of these studies was that the stem cell source used was of human origin and the recipient mice were immune competent. One would imagine that administration of human cells into a mouse would result in rapid rejection. This did not appear to be the case since the human cells were found to persist and also to differentiated into human neural tissues in the mouse. One mechanism for this “immune privilege” of MSC is believed to be their low expression of immune stimulatory molecules such as HLA antigens, costimulatory molecules (CD80/86) and cytokines capable of stimulating inflammatory responses such as IL-12. Besides not being seen by the immune system, it appears that MSC are involved in actively suppressing the immune system. In one study MSC were demonstrated to naturally home into lymph nodes subsequent to intravenous administration and “reprogram” T cells so as to suppress delayed type hypersensitive reactions. In those experiments scientists found that the mechanism of MSC-mediated immune inhibition was via secretion of nitric oxide. Other molecules that MSC use to suppress the immune system include soluble HLA-G, Leukemia Inhibitor Factor (LIF), IL-10, interleukin-1 receptor antagonist, and TGF-beta. MSC also indirectly suppress the immune system by secreting VEGF which blocks dendritic cell maturation and thus prevents activation of mature T cells.
While a lot of work has been performed investigating how MSC suppress the immune system, relatively little is known regarding if other types of stem cells, or immature cells, inhibit the immune system. This is very relevant because there are companies such as Stem Cells Inc that are using fetally-derived progenitor cells therapeutically in a universal donor fashion. There was a paper from an Israeli group demonstrating that neural progenitors administered into the EAE model have a therapeutic effect that is mediated through immune modulation, however, relatively little work has been performed identifying the cell-to-cell interactions that are associated with such immune modulation.
Recently a paper by Knight et al. Cross-talk between CD4(+) T-cells and neural stem/progenitor cells. Knight et al. J Neurol Sci. 2011 Apr 12 attempted to investigate the interaction between immune cells and neural stem cells and vice versa. The investigators developed an in vitro system in which neural stem cells were incubated with CD 4 cells of the Th1 (stimulators of cell mediated immunity), Th2 (stimulators of antibody mediated immunity) and Th17 (stimulators of inflammatory responses) subsets. In order to elucidate the impact of the death receptor (Fas) and its ligand (FasL), the mouse strains lpr and gld, respectively, were used.
The investigators showed that Th1 type CD4 cells were capable of directly killing neural stem cells in vitro. Killing appeared to be independent of Fas activation on the stem cells since gld derived T cells or lpr derived neural stem cells still participated in killing. Interestingly, neural stem cells were capable of stimulating cell death in Th1 and Th17 cells but not in the Th2 cells. Killing was contact dependent and appeared to be mediated by FasL expressed on the neural stem cells. This is interesting because some other studies have demonstrated that FasL found on hematopoietic stem cells appears to kill activated T cells. In the context of hematopoietic stem cells this phenomena may be used to explain clinical findings that transplanting high numbers of CD34 cells results in a higher engraftment, mediated in part by killing of recipient origin T cells.
The finding that neural stem cells express FasL and selectively kill inflammatory cells (Th1 and Th17) while sparing anti-inflammatory cells (Th2) indicates that the stem cells themselves may be therapeutic by exerting an immune modulatory effect. One thing that the study did not do is to see if differentiated neural stem cells would mediate the same effect. In other words, it is essentially to know if the general state of cell immaturity is associated with inhibition of inflammatory responses, or whether this is an activity specific to neurons. As mentioned above, previous studies have demonstrated that mesenchymal stem cells (MSC) are capable of eliciting immune modulation through a similar means. Specifically, MSC have been demonstrated to stimulate selective generation of T regulatory cells. This cell type was not evaluated in the current study, however some activities of Th2 cells are shared with Treg cells in that both are capable of suppressing T cytotoxic cell activation. In the context of explaining biological activities of stem cell therapy studies such as this one stimulate the believe that stem cells do not necessarily mediate their effects by replacing damaged cells, but by acting on the immune system. Theoretically, one of the reasons why immature cells are immune modulatory in the anti-inflammatory sense may be because inflammation is associated with oxidative stress. Oxidative stress is associated with mutations. Conceptually, the body would want to preferentially protect the genome of immature cells given that the more immature the cells are, the more potential they have for stimulation of cancer. Mature cells have a limited self renewal ability, whereas immature cells, given they have a higher potential for replication are more likely to accumulate genomic damage and neoplastically transform.

AuxoCell Laboratories Licenses Umbilical Cord Tissue Stem Cell Service to PerkinElmer’s ViaCord

Viacord Press Release
Cord blood private banking involves storing your own cord blood mononuclear cells in case you need them later. Cord blood public banking involves banking the cells into a public pool so that if others need them, they have access to them. In some ways it seems like cord blood private banking is based more on hope than on reality. The majority of uses of cord blood are in leukemias. In patients with leukemia you need to use the cord blood of a related or unrelated donor, but rarely if ever do you want to use your own cord blood because it may have the leukemic mutations in it that caused the leukemia to appear in the first place. Therefore, the majority of cord blood banking is based on the belief that in the future the FDA will allow for procedures to take your banked cord blood, manipulate it to generate certain tissues in vitro and then reimplant those tissues back in you if you need them. There are of course exceptions to this. For example, there are clinical trials using your own cord blood for the treatment of cerebral palsy. Specifically, Georgia Health Sciences University is doing a 40 patient cord blood study in patients with cerebral palsy who have stored their own cord blood http://www.clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT01072370. Additionally, Joanne Kurtzberg from Duke is performing an 120 patient study in children with cerebral palsy that have stored their own cord blood http://www.clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT01147653. Other diseases are also being explored experimentally. Clinical trials are also being performed using patient’s own cord blood for type 1 diabetes. A group in Germany is doing a 10 patient trial http://www.clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT00989547 and a group in Florida recently completed a 23 patient trial http://www.clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT00305344.
Thus at present the field of private cord blood banking may have some very high future potential. Large companies are realizing this and accordingly are moving into this space. Perkin Elmers announced today that it has licensed technologies patented by AuxoCell Laboratories involving processing and storage of mesenchymal stem cells from the umbilical cord. As we discussed previously on the Cellmedicine website, the umbilical cord possesses mesenchymal stem cells that are in some ways more potent than bone marrow mesenchymal stem cells because they are more immature. The licensing of this technology will allow for Perkin Elmers to deliver to customers the ability to bank not only hematopoietic stem cells but also mesenchymal stem cells. There are many uses for mesenchymal stem cells. In fact numerous clinical trials have been performed using autologous mesenchymal stem cells for conditions ranging from heart failure, to graft versus host, to spinal cord injury.
“AuxoCell is pleased to partner with PerkinElmer’s ViaCord in offering umbilical cord tissue banking and expand our strategic partnerships to bring novel stem cell therapies from the bench to the bedside,” said Kyle Cetrulo, chief operating officer of AuxoCell Laboratories, Inc. “Partnering with ViaCord was an easy decision. They are the first family bank in the United States to freeze treatment-ready cord tissue stem cells upon arrival at the lab, which enables them to be ready for immediate use, if needed.”
“ViaCord is excited to offer another source of stem cells to our customers and believe we have found an excellent partner in AuxoCell. The agreement grants ViaCord’s customers exclusive access, in family banking, to expanding MSCs derived from cord tissue through AuxoCell’s elite patents,” said Morey Kraus, ViaCord’s chief scientific officer. “AuxoCell’s proprietary and validated manufacturing protocols will assist ViaCord in offering the very best in stem cell banking.”

2011-03-31T20:04:02+00:00 March 31st, 2011|Cord Blood Stem Cells, News, Stem Cell Research|

World’s First Chemical Guided Missile Could Be the Answer to Wiping out Cancer

A research team at Deakin University has made a discovery that could have huge implications on the treatment and survival rates of cancer victims. The researchers, along with scientists in India and Australia have created the world’s first RNA aptamer, a chemical antibody that targets cancer stem cell marker epithelial cell adhesion molecule (EpCAM). This marker is overexpressed in cancer cells, thus allowing the RNA aptamer to bind directly to the cell before being internalized. The implications of this are that the aptamer has the potential ability to deliver drugs directly to the cancer stem cells and can also be used to develop a more effective cancer imaging system for early detection of the disease.

“Despite technological and medical advances, the survival rates for many cancers remain poor, due partly to the inability to detect cancer early and then provide targeted treatment,” said Professor Wei Duan, the Director of the Deakin Medical School’s Nanomedicine Program. “Current cancer treatments destroy the cells that form the bulk of the tumour, but are largely ineffective against the root of the cancer, the cancer stem cells. This suggests that in order to provide a cure for cancer we must accurately detect and eliminate the cancer stem cells.”

The aptamer is the first part of the ‘medical smart bomb’ the researchers have been developing. “What we have created is the ‘guided missile’ part of the ‘smart bomb’,” Professor Duan explained. “The aptamer acts like a guided missile, targeting the tumour and binding to the root of the cancer. “The aim now is to combine the aptamer with the ‘bomb’ (a microscopic fat particle) that can carry anti-cancer drugs or diagnostic imaging agents directly to the cancer stem cells, creating the ultimate medical smart bomb.”

“The cancer stem cell-targeting missile and the smart bomb could revolutionise the way cancer is diagnosed,” he explained. “The minute size of the aptamer means it could locate cancer cells in their very early stages. Attaching radioactive compounds to the aptamer could lead to the development of sensitive diagnostic scans for earlier detection, more accurate pinpointing of the location of cancer, better prediction of the chance of cure and improved monitoring of the response to treatment. More accurate identification of the type of cancer present would lead to more personalised treatment that is more successful and cost-effective. This could ultimately lead to better cancer survival rates and greatly improved quality of life for patients.”

2011-02-17T20:24:44+00:00 February 17th, 2011|News, Stem Cell Research|

Differences between Stem Cells from the Placenta and Bone Marrow

Fazekasova et al. Mesenchymal stem cells were historically isolated from the bone marrow as an adherent stem cell population capable of “orthodox” differentiation, meaning that they have ability to become bone, cartilage, and fat. Further research revealed that these cells are also capable of “non-orthodox” differentiation, that is, becoming neurons, hepatocytes, insulin producing cells, and lung cells. Given the high number of growth factors secreted by mesenchymal stem cells, numerous companies have sought to develop therapeutic products from mesenchymal stem cells. For example, Osiris Therapeutics has been developing bone marrow mesenchymal stem cells as a treatment for Graft Versus Host Disease. Athersys has been using bone marrow derived mesenchymal-like cells for treatment of heart disease, and Mesoblast has been using these cells for treatment of bone injury.

A new generation of companies has been focusing other mesenchymal-like cells derived from other tissues. For example, Medistem Inc has identified endometrial regenerative cells (ERC), a type of mesenchymal-like stem cell that is found in the endometrium and appears to have higher ability to produce growth factors that stimulate new blood vessel production as compared to other sources of mesenchymal stem cells. General Biotechnology LLC has been developing tooth derived mesenchymal stem cells for treatment of neurological disorders. Celgene has been using placental-derived mesenchymal stem cells for treatment of critical limb ischemia, a disorder associated with poor circulation of the legs.

Given that there appear to be various sources of mesenchymal stem cells, an important question is how do these cells compare when they are used in experiments side by side. In a paper published this month, placental derived and bone marrow derived mesenchymal stem cells were compared. The scientists found that higher numbers of mesenchymal stem cells could be isolated from the placenta as compared to the bone marrow. Interestingly, placental mesenchymal stem cells were found to be comprised of both fetal and maternal origin.

One of the critical features of mesenchymal stem cells is that they are able to be used without need for matching with the recipient. This is because mesenchymal stem cells are historically known to be “immune privileged”. One of the experiments that the scientists did was to examine whether there is a difference between the bone marrow and placentally derived mesenchymal stem cells in terms of immunogenicity.

Placentally derived mesenchymal stem cells expressed lower levels of the immune stimulatory molecule HLA class I and higher levels of the immune suppressive molecules PDL-1 and CD1a, compared to bone marrow derived mesenchymal stem cells. However, when both cell types were treated with interferon gamma, the placentally derived mesenchymal became much more immune stimulatory as compared to the bone marrow cells. Furthermore it appeared that direct incubation with T cells resulted in higher T cell stimulation with the placental mesenchymal stem cells as compared to the bone marrow cells. Thus from these data it appears that bone marrow derived mesenchymal stem cells are more immune privileged as compare to placental derived cells.

Men with Type 1 diabetes eventually may have a way to grow their own pancreas transplants

Thomas H. Maugh II, Los Angeles Times

Researchers from Georgetown University Medical Center in Washington DC reported today at the Annual Meeting of the American Society of Cell Biology that sperm contains stem cells capable of becoming beta cells. The beta cells are the insulin producing cells of the pancreas which are damaged/destroyed in patients with Type 1 diabetes.

Conventionally adult stem cells are found in the bone marrow, fat tissue, and cord blood. Recent studies have identified stem cells in places such as menstrual blood (endometrial regenerative cells), hair follicles, and baby teeth. The finding that stem cells from sperm are capable of generating insulin-producing cells has several major implications. For one, males could theoretically bank their own stem cells and use them in the future. Currently transplants with beta cells or pancreatic transplants have the drawback that there are not enough donors and also that the recipient is required to receive life-long immune suppression.

The lead scientist of the finding is biochemist G. Ian Gallicano of Georgetown and his colleagues obtained tissue from human testes from recently deceased donors and placed them in a special growth medium in the laboratory, where they began producing insulin. “These are true pluripotent stem cells,” he said in a statement. When transplanted into the backs of immune-deficient mice, the cells cured diabetes for about a week before dying. More recent results, Gallicano said, show that the researchers are able to produce more insulin-producing cells and keep them alive longer. The challenge, he noted, is to make them survive for very long periods of time in the recipient.

Dr. Gallicano and his team previous published in the peer reviewed journal Stem Cells and Development (Golestaneh et al. Pluripotent stem cells derived from adult human testes Stem Cells Dev. 2009 Oct;18(8):1115-26) that the testes contains spermatogonial stem cells (SSCs) which are capable of converting to embryonic stem (ES)-like cells which can differentiate into all three germ layers and organ lineages.

The importance of the current research is that these stem cells can actually exhibit function when administered to animals. It will be interesting to see if other organ functions may be restored by use of these stem cells.

2010-12-30T21:21:19+00:00 December 30th, 2010|Diabetes, News, Stem Cell Research|

Resveratrol Suppresses Cancer Stem Cells

Pandey et al. Breast Cancer Res Treat.

Resveratrol is a compound found in grapes, red wine, purple grape juice, peanuts, and berries that has been associated with many health benefits, particularly reduction in heart disease. Some studies have demonstrated that resveratrol increases life span when administered at high concentrations. One area of controversy has been the potential of resveratrol in the treatment of cancer.

One way of testing the anti-cancer efficacy of compounds is to administer the compound of interest to cancer cells that are growing “in a test tube”, or “in vitro.” Recently it was shown that cancer cells taken from a patient and propagated in vitro are usually not representative of the original tumor from which the cancer cells were excised. Specifically, it has been shown that in patients, cancer cells can broadly be classified into the rapidly multiplying cells, and the “sleeping cells” otherwise known as tumor stem cells. It appears that in vitro the rapidly multiplying cells continue multiplying, but the cancer stem cells do not multiply. This is important because the cancer stem cells seem to be the cells responsible for causing the tumor to spread, whereas in the rapidly multiplying cells actually seem to be weaker and more sensitive to chemotherapy.

To date the majority of studies investigating effects of resveratrol on cancer have focused on testing with the rapidly multiplying cells. The paper published today investigated the effects of resveratrol on tumor stem cells. Breast cancer tumor stem cells where isolated based on expression of the proteins CD44 and ESA, and lacking CD24. Tumor stem cells were harvested from patients that were both estrogen receptor positive and negative. It was found that addition of resveratrol caused death of the tumor stem cells, as well as blocked their ability to form three dimensional tumors in tissue culture called “mammospheres.”

Interestingly it seemed like the effects of the resveratrol were mediated by manipulating the way in which the cancer stem cells make fat. Specifically, resveratrol caused a significant reduction in fat synthesis which is associated with down-regulation of the enzyme fatty acid synthase (FAS). The suppression of the enzyme FAS was correlated with upregulation of the genes DAPK2 and BNIP3, which are known to stimulate a process called “apoptosis”, or cellular suicide.

This recent paper belongs to a growing example of scientific reports in which various “treatments” advocated by naturopathic doctors seem to have effects on cancer stem cells. For example, a previous publication (Kakarala et al. Targeting breast stem cells with the cancer preventive compounds curcumin and piperine. Breast Cancer Res Treat. 2010 Aug;122(3):777-85.) reported that the chemical curcumin, which is a component of the Indian spice turmeric, selectively inhibits cancer stem cells.

It appears that many of the chemotherapeutic drugs that are conventionally used in the treatment of cancer do not affect the cancer stem cell because chemotherapy requires tumor cells to be actively proliferating. In contrast, many of the “natural remedies” seem to suppress cancer stem cells because their activities seem to be mediated by other means than the ones in which chemotherapy works. It will be interesting to see if more papers such as the present one appear, which seem to provide scientific rationale for a more “compassionate approach” to cancer therapy

2010-12-29T14:23:41+00:00 December 29th, 2010|Cancer, News, Stem Cell Research|

Beike Biotechnology Reports on 114 Patients Treated with Novel Cord Blood Stem Cell Protocol

New Approach Opens Door to Expanded Uses of Cord Blood Stem Cells
Beike Biotechnology Press Release

Beiki Biotechnology and Medistem Inc (MEDS.PK) report positive safety data in 114 patients with neurological conditions treated using Beiki’s proprietary cord blood stem cell transplantation protocol. In the peer-reviewed paper “Safety evaluation of allogeneic umbilical cord blood mononuclear cell therapy for degenerative conditions” available at http://www.translational-medicine.com/content/pdf/1479-5876-8-75.pdf ., a team of researchers from Bieke Biotechnology, Medistem Inc, University of Western Ontario, Canada, and University of California, San Diego, describe biochemical, hematological, immunological, and general safety profile of patients with neurological diseases who were observed between 1 month to 4 years after treatment. No serious treatment associated adverse effects were observed. The current report aims to serve as an “expanded Phase I” study, with efficacy data to be published in a subsequent paper.

“Although it is well understood in the scientific community that cord blood stem cells are useful in treatment of terrible degenerative diseases ranging from heart failure, to stroke, to ALS, to multiple sclerosis, the fact that under current protocols immune suppressants are necessary, limits the use of cord blood to treatment of leukemias in the United States and Western Europe.” Said Dr. Hu CEO of Beike . He continued “This is the first time someone has demonstrated on such a large patient population feasibility of non-matched, non-immune suppressed, cord blood stem cell transplantation.”

The current medical dogma states that patients receiving cord blood transplants need to be immune suppressed, otherwise the cord blood will cause a devastating condition termed graft versus host. Due to the potentially lethal effects of immune suppression, cord blood stem cells are not used on a widespread basis, with the exception of treating aggressive leukemias. The technology developed by Beike allows the use of cord blood stem cells without immune suppression, thus opening up the use of this procedure to a much wider patient population.

“It is our honor to collaborate with Beike on this seminal publication. We at Medistem have been developing the concept of “universal donor endometrial regenerative cells”, which are a new stem cell that does not require tissue matching. The fact that Beike has been able to demonstrate safety of transplant by manipulating an established stem cell source is a substantial advancement for the field.” Said Thomas Ichim, CEO of Medistem Inc. “Concretely speaking, the findings of the current paper could open up the use of cord blood for non-hematological diseases, something that to date has not been performed on a wide-spread basis.”

2010-09-02T15:48:33+00:00 September 2nd, 2010|Cord Blood Stem Cells, News, Stem Cell Research|

A Fall for Stem Cells Injunction Halting Stem Cell Research Funds May Have Far-Reaching Consequences

(STEPHEN BROZAK and LARRY JINDRA, M.D. ABC News) There is some anticipation that this fall will be an important season for the debate on embryonic stem cell research. On Aug 30, 2010 a Washington, DC district judge (Lamberth), issued a temporary injunction halting all federal funding for basic research into embryonic stem cell technology. The injunction states there is a legitimate basis for arguing the matter in court. A full hearing will soon decide the final outcome. If the decision is upheld, federal funding for embryonic stem cell research will cease, in a similar manner to the previous funding moratorium on this research during the Bush administration.

According to this article, Judge Lamberth’s decision “reflects the lack of awareness in the U.S. around research and development of embryonic stem cells”. This statement was made because subsequent to the ruling, the price of numerous stem cell company stocks fell, including of companies working in the area of adult stem cells. These companies in no way should be affected by the controversy surrounding embryonic stem cells.

The article highlights the important difference between these two stem cell types. Embryonic stem cells are generated from a fertilized egg in vitro. These stem cells are highly undifferentiated and form tumors when administered into immune deficient mice called teratomas. The other type of stem cells, adult stem cells, are derived from sources such as bone marrow, menstrual blood, cord blood, placenta, and fat. These cells do not generated tumors and have been used therapeutically in the treatment of many diseases. To date, the only use of embryonic stem cells in humans has been by the company Geron that is generating oligodendrocytes from embryonic stem cells for use in the treatment of patients with spinal cord injury.

Geron has spend years trying to attain FDA approval for its approach. A temporary approval was granted under the Obama administration which was rapidly rescinded. Subsequently the trial was allowed to continue, however no data has been reported at the time of writing.

Adult stem cell companies include Osiris, who are working on bone marrow derived mesenchymal stem cells for treatment of heart failure, graft versus host disease, and Crohn’s Disease, Pluristem, who are working on placental mesenchymal stem cells for treatment of critical limb ischemia, and Medistem Inc, who are using menstrual blood derived Endometrial Regenerative Cells (ERC) for treatment of the same condition.

The authors of the article are Stephen Brozak, president of WBB Securities, an independent broker-dealer and investment bank specializing in biotechnology, medical devices and pharmaceutical research and Dr. Lawrence Jindra who is director of research for WBB Securities.

2010-08-27T16:43:49+00:00 August 27th, 2010|Embryonic Stem Cells, News, Stem Cell Research|