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Scripps Research team overcomes major obstacle for stem cell therapies and research
Date:9/8/2011

LA JOLLA, CA September 8, 2011 Stem cells show great potential to enable treatments for conditions such as spinal injuries or Lou Gehrig's disease, and also as research tools. One of the greatest problems slowing such work is that researchers have found major complications in purifying cell mixtures, for instance to remove stem cells that can cause tumors from cells developed for use in medical treatments. But a group of Scripps Research scientists, working with colleagues in Japan, have developed a clever solution to this purification problem that should prove more reliable than other methods, safer, and perhaps 100 times cheaper.

The work appears in the current edition of the journal Cell Research.

Effective tricks for separating stem cells from other types are essential for many emerging medical treatments. These techniques begin with researchers inducing stem cells to take specific forms, or differentiate, for instance into nerve cells. These differentiated cells might then be used to repair a spinal cord injury. Other cells might enable a diabetic's body to produce adequate insulin.

A key problem is that in the differentiation process, at least some stem cells inevitably remain in their undifferentiated, or pluripotent, state. These cells can grow to form tumors in patients if injected along with differentiated cells, a concern that has already led the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to delay clinical trials for promising stem cell-based therapies.

A New Approach

To date, almost all attempts at purification have focused on developing antibodiesimmune system attack cellsthat can remove or destroy stem cells in mixtures. But this approach has had shortcomings. Effective antibodies are difficult and expensive to develop, and their use in medical therapies raises safety issues because they are produced in animals.

The Scripps Research team, led by Professor of Developmental Neuro
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Contact: Mika Ono
mikaono@scripps.edu
858-784-2052
Scripps Research Institute
Source:Eurekalert  

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