Research dispels fears human stem cells contain cancer-causing mutations

by University of Exeter

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Pioneering new research has made a pivotal breakthrough that dispel concerns that human stem cells could contain cancer-causing mutations.

A team of scientists from the University of Exeter’s flagship Living Systems Institute has shown that stem cells contain no cancer mutations when they are grown in their most primitive or naïve state.

The ground-breaking advances made by the research team should help allay fears surrounding recent controversy about the genetic stability of human embryonic stem cells.

The study is published in leading peer review journal Cell Stem Cell on Monday, December 14th 2020.

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Regenerative drug summons stem cells for inflammation-free healing

By Michael Irving

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Neural stem cells maturing into brain cells in miceSanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute

Researchers have developed a drug that can mimic inflammation signals to lure stem cells to damaged tissue, without causing any further inflammation. The technique could be a boon for regenerative medicine to treat neurological disorders.

Inflammation is the body’s natural response to injury and damage, swelling up to allow better blood flow to the area. It also acts like a “fire alarm” to attract the attention of the immune system to help the healing process, and stem cells are some of the most important responders.

In theory, inflammation could be used to lure these regenerative stem cells to injuries, but of course there are risks. Chronic inflammation underlies conditions like arthritismultiple sclerosis and Crohn’s disease, and has even been linked to cardiovascular diseasesAlzheimer’s and depression.

So for the new study, the researchers investigated ways to summon stem cells using inflammation signals without creating further inflammation. The team modified an inflammatory molecule called CXCL12, which had previously been identified as a stem cell attractor. They found that it contains two “pockets” – one that binds to stem cells and one for inflammatory signaling – so they developed a drug that maximizes the binding but minimizes the signaling.

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Artificial ‘mini-lungs’ grown in a lab allow scientists to watch how the coronavirus infects human cells in ‘major breakthrough’

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Tiny artificial lungs grown in a lab from adult stem cells have allowed scientists to watch how coronavirus infects the lungs in a new ‘major breakthrough’.

Researchers from Duke University and Cambridge University produced artificial lungs in two independent and separate studies to examine the spread of Covid-19.

  • Researchers took stem cells and had them grow into cells found in the lungs
  • They then had them produce 3D models of the lung cells Covid-19 infects
  • They can use their new models to track the spread of the deadly virus in lungs
  • It’s hoped doing so will allow them to develop new drugs to help treat the virus

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Scientists discover protective Alzheimer’s gene and develop rapid drug-testing platform

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PET scan of a human brain with Alzheimer’s disease.

A gene has been discovered that can naturally suppress the signs of Alzheimer’s Disease in human brain cells, in research led by Queen Mary University of London. The scientists have also developed a new rapid drug-screening system for treatments that could potentially delay or prevent the disease.

The main challenge in testing Alzheimer’s drugs in clinical trials is that participants need to have symptoms. But once people have symptoms, it is usually too late for treatments to have a significant effect, as many brain cells have already died.

The only current way to test potential preventative treatments is by identifying participants who are at higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s and seeing if treatments prevent the onset of their disease. This includes people with Down’s syndrome (DS) who have around a 70 per cent chance of developing Alzheimer’s during their lifetime. This is because the extra chromosome 21 they carry includes the gene for amyloid precursor protein which causes early Alzheimer’s when overdosed or mutated.

In the study, published in the Nature group journal Molecular Psychiatry, the researchers collected hair cells from people with DS and reprogrammed them to become stem cells, which were then directed to turn into brain cells in a dish.

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Mini human livers grown from stem cells successfully implanted into rats

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Miniature human livers can be grown from stem cells and implanted into rats – and hopefully, one day humans

 Imagine needing a liver transplant, and instead of waiting for a donor, a new one could be grown from your own skin cells. Scientists have now taken quite a big step towards that future, by successfully transplanting miniature human livers grown from induced pluripotent stem cells (IPSCs) into rats.

Organ transplants save lives, but there are hurdles to overcome. For one, there’s a constant shortage of donors and, even when one is found, the patient’s immune system often rejects the new tissue.

Growing a replacement organ from a patient’s own cells could solve both problems. It can be done on demand when a patient needs one, and the organ won’t be rejected because the immune system recognizes the cells as “self.”

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Reprogrammed skin cells inserted in brain help Parkinson’s patient regain function – study

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REUTERS – Skin cells reprogrammed to produce the neurotransmitter dopamine and inserted deep into the brain of a 69-year-old man with Parkinson’s disease have allowed him to tie his shoes again and resume swimming and biking, researchers reported in The New England Journal of Medicine on Wednesday.

The experimental treatment, initiated two years ago and financed partly by the patient, used the man’s own skin cells to create dopamine-releasing nerve cells. Using his own cells dramatically lowers the risk of rejection by the immune system.

Parkinson’s, a progressive disease that affects millions of people worldwide, produces tremors, stiffness, and problems walking and speaking as the dopamine-producing cells in the brain degenerate.

Researchers say the transformed skin cells, transplanted into both hemispheres of the brain in surgical procedures six months apart, continued to produce the dopamine needed to ease the Parkinson’s symptoms.

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Experimental study speeds up bone healing with 2 common medications

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In rat experiments the duo of drugs increased levels of circulating stem cells and sped up healing of a spinal fracture

A new proof-of-concept study has found a combination of two drugs, already approved by the FDA for other uses, may boost the release of stem cells from bone marrow and accelerate the healing of broken bones. Only demonstrated in animals at this stage, the researchers suggest clinical trials could progress rapidly considering the drugs have already been demonstrated as safe in humans.

“The body repairs itself all the time,” says corresponding author on the study Sara Rankin. “We know that when bones break they will heal, and this requires the activation of stem cells in the bone. However, when the damage is severe, there are limits to what the body can do of its own accord.”

A great deal of current research is focusing on mesenchymal stem cell (MSC) therapies. MSCs are a type of adult stem cell that can grow into a variety of different cell types including muscle, fat or bone. Many current MSC treatments in development involve extracting a small number from a patient, growing them in laboratory conditions, then injecting them back into the patient.

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Scientists build “first living robots” from frog stem cells

 

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“It’s a new class of artifact: a living, programmable organism.”

A team of researchers have built what they claim to be the first living robots. The “xenobots,” they say, can move, pick up objects, and even heal themselves after being cut.

The team is hoping the biological machines could one day be used to clean up microplastics in the ocean or even deliver drugs inside the human body, The Guardian reports.

To build the robots, the team used living cells from frog embryos and assembled them into primitive beings.

“These are novel living machines,” research co-lead Joshua Bongard, robotics expert at the University of Vermont, said in a statement. “They’re neither a traditional robot nor a known species of animal. It’s a new class of artifact: a living, programmable organism.”

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Japan approves scientist’s plan to create world’s first Humanimals

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For the first time, a government is supporting a plan to create animal embryos with human cells and bring them to term, resulting in a type of humanimal known as a human-animal chimera.

According to Nature, a committee from Japan’s science ministry signed off on a request by researchers to grow human pancreases in either rats or mice, the first such experiment to gain approval since a government ban was reversed earlier this year.

“Finally, we are in a position to start serious studies in this field after 10 years of preparation,” lead researcher Hiromitsu Nakauchi told the Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun.

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Scientists create a device that can mass-produce human embryoids

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These human embryo-like structures (top) were synthesized from human stem cells; they’ve been stained to illustrate different cell types. Images (bottom) of the “embryoids” in the new device that was invented to make them. Yi Zheng/University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

Scientists have invented a device that can quickly produce large numbers of living entities that resemble very primitive human embryos.

Researchers welcomed the development, described Wednesday in the journal Nature, as an important advance for studying the earliest days of human embryonic development. But it also raises questions about where to draw the line in manufacturing “synthetic” human life.

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Mini-brains grown in a lab have human-like brain activity

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A new study promises new paths to research mental illness, but raises questions about whether so-called organoids could develop consciousness

Alysson Muotri was dumbfounded when the pea-sized blobs of human brain cells that he was growing in the lab started emitting electrical pulses. He initially thought the electrodes he was using were malfunctioning.

Muotri was wrong. What the cells were emitting were brain waves — rhythmic patterns of neural activity. “That was a big surprise,” he says.

The 3D blobs of brain cells, known as organoids, are commonly used in disease and drug research to replicate organs. But no “mini-brain” had ever shown signs of brain waves before.

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Cambridge scientists reverse ageing process in rat brain stem cells

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Aged rat brain stem cells grown on a soft surface (right) show more healthy, vigorous growth than similar aged brain stem cells grown on a stiff surface (left)

New research reveals how increasing brain stiffness as we age causes brain stem cell dysfunction, and demonstrates new ways to reverse older stem cells to a younger, healthier state.

…when the old brain cells were grown on the soft material, they began to function like young cells – in other words, they were rejuvenated

The results, published today in Nature, have far-reaching implications for how we understand the ageing process, and how we might develop much-needed treatments for age-related brain diseases.

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