Stem cell plasters could revolutionize heart surgeries

Researchers at the University of Bristol in the U.K. funded by the British Heart Foundation (BHF) have developed ‘stem cell plasters’ to revolutionize the way surgeons treat children living with congenital heart disease, so they don’t need as many open-heart operations.

BY JIM CORNALL

Heart defects are the most common type of anomaly that develop before a baby is born, with around 13 babies diagnosed with a congenital heart condition every day in the U.K. alone. These include defects to the baby’s heart valves, the major blood vessels in and around the heart, and the development of holes in the heart.

Currently, for many of these children, surgeons can perform open-heart surgery to temporarily repair the problem, but the materials used for the patches or replacement heart valves cannot grow with the baby. This means they can be rejected by the patient’s immune system which causes the surgical materials to gradually break down and fail within months or years.

It means a child might have to go through the same heart operation multiple times throughout childhood, which keeps them in hospital for weeks at a time. This impacts their quality of life and causes a lot of stress for the family.

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Creating Mini Brains from Stem Cells Gets Automated

Scientists innovate on growing brain organoids from pluripotent stem cells.

By Lybi Ma

Scientists published a new study published in Scientific Reports that showcases a new platform that automates the growth of brain organoids, offering neuroscientists research improved flexibility and quality control.

“The increasing demands for long-term experiments, reproducibility, parallelization, and longitudinal analysis drive cell culture toward automation,” the researchers at the University of California at Santa Cruz wrote. “This study showcases an automated, microfluidic solution for the growth and maintenance of organoids capable of existing in conjunction with other control and sensing devices over the Internet of Things, magnifying the ability to capitalize on precision robotics for automated experimentation.”

One of the greatest challenges in neuroscience is having living human brains in which to conduct research. Neuroscientists study the human brain, the central nervous system, as well as neurological and psychiatric disorders to discover potential treatments and cures. Brain organoids, 3D brain-like structures consisting of human stem cells, offer a way to study brain diseases and disorders and test potential medication and treatments.

The history of brain organoids is fairly recent. In 2006 scientists Shinya Yamanaka, a recipient of the 2012 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, and Kazutoshi Takahashi were the first to create induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs). The duo created stem cells in a lab by applying four transcription factors to the mature skin cells of mice. Transcription factors are the molecules that play a role in regulating gene expression. Transcription factors are typically proteins, but they can be made up of non-coding RNA as well. Yamanaka and others demonstrated that this technique worked for human skin cells in 2007.

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Using induced pluripotent stem cells to recreate the adrenal gland in a petri dish

By Emily Henderson, B.Sc.

Sitting atop the kidneys, the adrenal gland plays a pivotal role in maintaining a healthy body. Responding to signals from the brain, the gland secretes hormones that support critical functions like blood pressure, metabolism, and fertility.

People with adrenal gland disorders, such as primary adrenal insufficiency, in which the gland does not release sufficient hormones, can suffer fatigue, dangerously low blood pressure, coma, and even death if untreated. No cure for primary adrenal insufficiency exists, and the lifelong hormone-replacement therapy used to treat it carries significant side effects.

A preferable alternative would be a regenerative medicine approach, regrowing a functional adrenal gland capable of synthesizing hormones and appropriately releasing them in tune with the brain’s feedback. With a new study in the journal Developmental Cell, researchers from the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine coaxed stem cells in a petri dish to divide, mature, and take on some of the functions of a human fetal adrenal gland, bringing that goal one step closer.

This is a proof-of-principle that we can create a system grown in a dish that functions nearly identically to a human adrenal gland in the early stages of development. A platform like this could be used to better understand the genetics of adrenal insufficiency and even for drug screening to identify better therapies for people with these disorders.”

Kotaro Sasaki, senior author and assistant professor at Penn Vet

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Scientists are growing billions of stem cells on the ISS to help humans travel to other planets

Scientists are shooting stem cells into space, hoping to make discoveries that help people on Earth

Scientists have put stem cells on the International Space Station to explore whether they will grow better in zero gravity.

These cells would potentially be able to generate nearly any other kind of cell, possibly unlocking the potential to make treatments for diseases while off-planet.

The experiment is the latest research project that involves shooting stem cells into space. Some, like this one, aim to overcome the terrestrial difficulty of mass producing the cells. Others explore how space travel impacts the cells in the body. And some help better understand diseases such as cancer.

“By pushing the boundaries like this, it’s knowledge and it’s science and it’s learning,” said Clive Svendsen, executive director of Cedars-Sinai’s Regenerative Medicine Institute.

Six earlier projects from the US, China and Italy sent up various types of stem cells — including his team’s study of the effects of microgravity on cell-level heart function, said Dr Joseph Wu of Stanford University, who directs the Stanford Cardiovascular Institute. Dr Wu helped coordinate a series of programs on space-based stem cell research last year.

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Scientists aim to grow billions of stem cells aboard the International Space Station

This is the latest effort to overcome one of the key hurdles for widespread stem cell therapies.

By Chris Young

Scientists from Cedars-Sinai Medical in Los Angeles are investigating how to grow large batches of a specific type of stem cell.

Their mission has taken them orbital — to the International Space Station — and it could help unlock a whole host of stem cell therapies to combat deadly diseases.

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One of the researchers, Dhruv Sareen, even donated his own stem cells for the experiment, a press statement reveals. If all goes to plan, the scientists hope to eventually grow billions of stem cells in space.

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Time-Lapse Footage Shows Neural Stem Cells Grow in 3D Scaffolds

Watch as primordial neural cells dance across, grow into, and even move 3D scaffolds engineered to heal brain injury from stroke and other trauma. Decorating the scaffold with various nutrients and biochemical signals allow researchers to control what types of brain tissues they become. Credit: Katrina Wilson and Ken Kingery, Duke University.


Researchers at Duke University have captured days-long time-lapse videos of young neural cells moving and growing within a novel 3D synthetic biocompatible structure. By literally watching how the cells respond to natural biochemical signals embedded within the material, biomedical engineers hope to develop biogels that can repair and regrow brain tissue after a stroke or other trauma.

The results appear online June 22 in the journal Advanced Materials.

Repairing and regrowing brain tissue is a difficult task. Left to its own devices, the brain does not regenerate lost synapses, blood vessels or other structures after suffering an injury, such as from a stroke. Dead brain tissue is instead absorbed, leaving behind a cavity devoid of anything recognizable as healthy brain tissue.

But that hasn’t stopped researchers from trying to regenerate damaged brains anyway. One common approach used by biomedical engineers is to provide a new medium for the diverse pieces of brain tissue to move into, loaded with various nutrients and biological instructions to encourage growth.

While scientists in the field have historically reached for a homogenous, gelatinous biomaterial to support neural regrowth, Tatiana Segura, professor of biomedical engineering at Duke University, has developed a different approach. Her biomaterial built to encourage all types of healing and growth is made of millions of tiny gelatinous spheres packed together to form a stable scaffold.

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A Newly Discovered Type of Stem Cell Could Allow Scientists To Make Organs in a Dish

Traditionally, researchers create stem cells by either placing an embryo in a dish or employing molecules found in pluripotent cells to reprogram differentiated cells and create induced pluripotent cells. This new study explores other possibilities.

The University of Copenhagen researchers utilized a mouse model to discover an alternate path that some cells follow to build organs and used that information to exploit a new kind of stem cells as a possible supply of organs in a dish

Imagine being able to restore damaged organ tissue. Because stem cells have the incredible ability to create the cells of organs such as the liver, pancreas, and intestine, that is what stem cell research is aiming to do. 

For many years, researchers have worked to duplicate the process by which embryonic stem cells develop into organs and other parts of the body. However, despite several attempts, it has proven to be incredibly challenging to get lab-grown cells to mature correctly. However, recent research from the University of Copenhagen reveals that they could have missed a crucial step and perhaps another kind of stem cell.

“Very simply put, a number of recent studies have attempted to make a gut from stem cells in a dish. We have found a new way to do this, a way that follows different aspects of what happens in the embryo. Here, we found a new route that the embryo uses, and we describe the intermediate stage that different types of stem cells could use to make the gut and other organs,” says Ph.D. student at Martin Proks, one of the primary authors of the study from Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Stem Cell Medicine at the University of Copenhagen (reNEW).

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Researchers develop unique 3D printed system for harvesting stem cells from bioreactors

Modular 3D printed microfluidic system. Credit: Majid Warkiani et al. Bioresources and Bioprinting 2022.

Researchers have developed a unique 3D printed system for harvesting stem cells from bioreactors, offering the potential for high quality, wide-scale production of stem cells in Australia at a lower cost.

Stem cells offer great promise in the treatment of many diseases and injuries, from arthritis and diabetes to cancer, due to their ability to replace damaged cells. However, current technology used to harvest stem cells is labor intensive, time consuming and expensive.

Biomedical engineer Professor Majid Warkiani from the University of Technology Sydney led the translational research, in collaboration with industry partner Regeneus—an Australian biotechnology company developing stem cell therapies to treat inflammatory conditions and pain.

“Our cutting-edge technology, which uses 3D printing and microfluidics to integrate a number of production steps into one device can help make stem cell therapies more widely available to patients at a lower cost,” said Professor Warkiani.

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New protocol can develop safe, efficient pluripotent stem cell-based therapies for macular degeneration

by Emily Henderson, B.Sc.

As we age, so do our eyes; most commonly, this involves changes to our vision and new glasses, but there are more severe forms of age-related eye problems. One of these is age-related macular degeneration, which affects the macula -; the back part of the eye that gives us sharp vision and the ability to distinguish details. The result is a blurriness in the central part of our visual field.

The macula is part of the eye’s retina, which is the light-sensitive tissue mostly composed of the eye’s visual cells: cone and rod photoreceptor cells. The retina also contains a layer called the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE), which has several important functions, including light absorption, cleaning up cellular waste, and keeping the other cells of the eye healthy.

The cells of the RPE also nourish and maintain the eye’s photoreceptor cells, which is why one of the most promising treatment strategies for age-related macular degeneration is to replace aging, degenerating RPE cells with new ones grown from human embryonic stem cells.

Scientist have proposed several methods for converting stem cells into RPE, but there is still a gap in our knowledge of how cells respond to these stimuli over time. For example, some protocols take a few months while others can take up to a year. And yet, scientists are not clear as to what exactly happens over that period of time.

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Jab inside your ear to restore hearing! New drug prompts stem cells to grow into hair-like cilia cells to reverse hearing loss

By ALICE JAFFE

A gel that’s injected into the ear could reverse hearing loss. Called FX-322, the one-off jab works by encouraging dormant stem cells inside the ear to grow into healthy new auditory cells capable of transmitting sounds to the brain.

Stem cells are immature cells found throughout the body, and many have the capacity to grow into virtually any type of tissue.

The new drug prompts these dormant cells to grow into cilia. These tiny hair-like cells pick up sounds and turn them into electrical impulses that are sent along the auditory nerve to the brain for processing.

Around 11 million people in the UK are affected by hearing loss, eight million of whom are aged 60 or older. Short-term hearing loss can occur as a result of ear infections or wax build-up.

Stem cells are immature cells found throughout the body, and many have the capacity to grow into virtually any type of tissue. The new drug prompts these dormant cells to grow into cilia

But while this is treatable, hearing loss due to damage to the cilia — for example, from repeated exposure to loud noise or changes in the inner ear as we age — is largely untreatable because the cells cannot repair themselves.

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Chinese experts first make human stem cell via chemical reprogramming

Chinese scientists have translated human somatic cells back into pluripotent stem cells with chemical molecules. /CFP

Chinese scientists have translated human somatic cells back into pluripotent stem cells, an “adult” version of early embryonic cells, using chemical molecules.

A group of researchers led by Deng Hongkui from Peking University reported finding the chemical cellular reprogramming technique for the first time ever.

The technique can be developed into universal knowhow on how to efficiently cultivate human cells of various functions, offering new possibilities for treating critical illnesses, the researchers said.

Previously, the cell-intrinsic components, including oocyte cytoplasm and transcription factors, were used to reprogram cells in human tissue or organs into pluripotent stem cells that can propagate to give rise to every other cell type in the body.

Inspired by how lower animals like axolotl regenerate its limb, the researchers demonstrated that the highly differentiated human somatic cells could experience plastic changes, triggered by certain chemical molecules, according to the study published recently in the journal Nature.

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