Posts Tagged ‘Stem cell’

S. Korea acts to recover from Hwang Woo-suk stem-cell debacle

September 19, 2011

Hwang Woo-suk “is a South Korean veterinarian and researcher. He was a professor of theriogenology and biotechnology at Seoul National University (dismissed on March 20, 2006) who became infamous for fabricating a series of experiments, which appeared in high-profile journals, in the field of stem cell research. Until November 2005, he was considered one of the pioneering experts in the field, best known for two articles published in the journal Science in 2004 and 2005 where he reported to have succeeded in creating human embryonic stem cells by cloning”.

Now the S. Korean government has introduced new regulations and is pumping more money into stem-cell research in an effort to rebuild the pre-eminent position that the country once had. The potential  for financial benefits for the technology leaders in  stem-cell based medical treatment is enormous and the government is responding to pressure from the country’s health care industry. The government sees potential for revenues for the country from stem-cell based treatments equalling or surpassing even that from its IT industry.

FCB-Pharmicell is a leading Korean company trying to use stem-cell based techniques for medical treatments and in July their Hearticellgram-AMI treatment was approved by the Korean Food and Drug Administration for the clinical treatment of heart-attack victims.

InvestorStemCell: More than five years after South Korea’s scientific reputation was shattered by a cloning research scandal, the country has approved stem cell medication in the form of a treatment for heart attack victims for the world’s first clinical use. …. Unlike embryonic stem cells, the use of somatic — or adult — stem cells, as in this case, is not controversial as they are derived from adult tissue samples and not destroyed human embryos. ….

Countries such as the United States and Germany are using this radical form of treatment in a ‘research’ capacity. What puts the South Korean team ahead is that it has shown the treatment as being good enough to win regulatory approval and make it available for clinical use.

…. After six years of clinical trials, the KFDA said it had finalized all procedures needed to permit the sale of Hearticellgram-AMI, a stem cell therapy for acute myocardial infarction, commonly known as heart attack.

Now the government is taking regulatory action to strengthen the oversight provisions but also to simplify licencing. The objective is to try and regain the reputation and credibility of the S. Korean researchers and the companies poised to commercialise the new techniques:

Reuters: South Korea’s president vowed on Monday a series of regulatory reforms to help regain its place as a stem cell research powerhouse, trying to reclaim momentum five years after a cloning scandal. President Lee Myung-bak said that by breathing new life into the industry, it could become “core new growth engine” for Asia’s fourth biggest economy along the same lines as its lucrative IT sector.

“Just a decade ago, Korea took the lead in stem cell research in the world along with the United States,” Lee said in a bi-weekly radio address. “Unfortunately, there was a disappointing incident, which caused inevitable damage to the entire stem-cell research community in Korea,” Lee said, referring to the scandal involving the pre-eminent scientist, Hwang Woo-suk. … As a result of the scandal, South Korea all but put stem cell research into the deep freeze. Lee said the lapse had allowed other countries such as the United States, Japan, Britain and China to get the jump on South Korea, depriving the country of valuable revenue. “While we were faltering in our quest for stem cell research, other nations streamlined their regulations and aggressively expanded their investments in research,” he said.

Lee said the government would invest nearly 100 billion won ($90 million) in stem cell research next year and that it would reform related regulations to make clinical and licensing procedures easier. He said the reforms would help the Korea Food and Drug Administration (KFDA) and other agencies “to ensure that they proactively adapt to the changes in the international environment”. 

“The government has decided to foster the stem cell industry as a core new growth engine following the footsteps of the IT industry,” he said.



Skin cells made to behave like nerve cells without the use of stem cells

June 7, 2011

A new paper by researchers at Lund University in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America describes how they have managed to develop nerve cells from human skin cells without using stem cells – a development described as an ethical and medical breakthrough.

Direct conversion of human fibroblasts to dopaminergic neurons

by Ulrich Pfisterer, Agnete Kirkeby, Olof Torper, James Wood, Jenny Nelander, Audrey Dufour, Anders Björklund, Olle Lindvall,Johan Jakobsson, and Malin Parmar

doi:10.1073/pnas.1105135108 PNAS June 6, 2011

Abstract: Recent reports demonstrate that somatic mouse cells can be directly converted to other mature cell types by using combined expression of defined factors. Here we show that the same strategy can be applied to human embryonic and postnatal fibroblasts. By overexpression of the transcription factors Ascl1, Brn2, and Myt1l, human fibroblasts were efficiently converted to functional neurons. We also demonstrate that the converted neurons can be directed toward distinct functional neurotransmitter phenotypes when the appropriate transcriptional cues are provided together with the three conversion factors. By combining expression of the three conversion factors with expression of two genes involved in dopamine neuron generation, Lmx1a and FoxA2, we could direct the phenotype of the converted cells toward dopaminergic neurons. Such subtype-specific induced neurons derived from human somatic cells could be valuable for disease modeling and cell replacement therapy.

The Local reports:



Swedish team turns skin into nerve cells

Swedish team turns skin into nerve cells

A team of researchers at Lund University in southern Sweden have managed to develop nerve cells from human skin cells without using stem cells – a development described as an ethical and medical breakthrough.

“This fundamentally changes how we look at mature cells and their capacity. Previously a skin cell was thought to always remain a skin cell, but we have shown that it can be any cell,” said Malin Parmar, the Lund University researcher leading the study, to The Local on Tuesday.

The new technique works by reprogramming connective tissue cells, so-called human fibroblasts, directly into nerve cells, opening up a new field with the potential to “take research around cell transplantation to the next level”.

Parmar explained that members of the research team were surprised at how receptive the fibroblasts were for new instructions.

“From the beginning this was mostly an experiment that was fun to try out. But fairly quickly it was shown that the cells were unexpectedly receptive to instructions,” she said.


Stem Cells turn injured rodents into Mighty Mice

November 11, 2010

The implications for the possible treatment of wasted muscles – and perhaps even for aged, wasted muscles – is immense.

(Reuters) – Injecting stem cells into injured mice made their muscles grow back twice as big in a matter of days, creating mighty mice with bulky muscles that stayed big and strong for the rest of their lives, U.S. researchers said on Wednesday.

Mighty Mouse

If the same applies to humans, the findings could lead to new treatments for diseases that cause muscles to deteriorate, such as muscular dystrophy.

It may even help people resist the gradual erosion of muscle strength that comes with age, Bradley Olwin, of the University of Colorado at Boulder, and colleagues reported in the journal Science Translational Medicine. “This was a very exciting and unexpected result,” Olwin, who worked on the study, said in a statement.

“We found that the transplanted stem cells are permanently altered and reduce the aging of the transplanted muscle, maintaining strength and mass.” Olwin’s team experimented on young mice with leg injuries, injecting them with muscle stem cells taken from young donor mice. Stem cells are unique in that they can constantly renew themselves, and form the basis of other specialized cells. These cells not only repaired the injury, but they caused the treated muscle to increase in size by 170 percent. Olwin’s team had thought the changes would be temporary, but they lasted through the lifetime of the mice, which was about two years.

“When the muscles were examined two years later, we found the procedure permanently changed the transplanted cells, making them resistant to the aging process in the muscle,” Olwin said in a statement.

Olwin and colleagues said when they injected the cells into a healthy leg, they did not get the same effect, suggesting there is something important about injecting the cells into an injured muscle that triggers growth.

“The environment that the stem cells are injected into is very important, because when it tells the cells there is an injury, they respond in a unique way,” he said.

The team hopes eventually to find drugs or combinations of drugs that mimic the behavior of transplanted cells,” Olwin said. The findings are encouraging for human research, but Olwin cautions that putting stem cells from young mice into other young mice is not the same thing as making old muscles young again.

And the study is in mice, not people.

The paper is

Prevention of Muscle Aging by Myofiber-Associated Satellite Cell Transplantation by John K. Hall, Glen B. Banks, Jeffrey S. Chamberlain and Bradley B. Olwin. Sci Transl Med 10 November 2010: Vol. 2, Issue 57, p. 57ra83
DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.3001081


Skeletal muscle is dynamic, adapting to environmental needs, continuously maintained, and capable of extensive regeneration. These hallmarks diminish with age, resulting in a loss of muscle mass, reduced regenerative capacity, and decreased functionality. Although the mechanisms responsible for this decline are unclear, complex changes within the local and systemic environment that lead to a reduction in regenerative capacity of skeletal muscle stem cells, termed satellite cells, are believed to be responsible. We demonstrate that engraftment of myofiber-associated satellite cells, coupled with an induced muscle injury, markedly alters the environment of young adult host muscle, eliciting a near-lifelong enhancement in muscle mass, stem cell number, and force generation. The abrogation of age-related atrophy appears to arise from an increased regenerative capacity of the donor stem cells, which expand to occupy both myonuclei in myofibers and the satellite cell niche. Further, these cells have extensive self-renewal capabilities, as demonstrated by serial transplantation. These near-lifelong, physiological changes suggest an approach for the amelioration of muscle atrophy and diminished function that arise with aging through myofiber-associated satellite cell transplantation.

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