March 15, 2017 | David F. Coppedge

Stem Cell Headlines

Here’s a list of news reports about stem cells for those interested in either health or bioethics.

Stem cell research continues to promise amazing treatments, yet the use of human embryos is ethically troublesome. Adult stem cells and induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC) offer ethical workarounds for embryonic stem cells in most cases. Here’s what’s developing on the stem cell front.

Researchers take broad look at stem cells (Science Daily). “Sanford Research scientists recently published a review article in an issue of Stem Cells Translational Medicine focused on the study of and utility of adult-derived stem cells.” A new clinical trial opened for patients with rotator-cuff tears, using their own stem cells.

Clonal reversal of ageing-associated stem cell lineage bias via a pluripotent intermediate (Nature Scientific Reports). This study looks at the potential for reversing aging with iPSCs treated to heal hematopoietic stem cells in the blood.

The stem cell dynamics of wound healing (Medical Xpress). Researchers in Brussels are using mouse models to study how the body’s stem cells work to repair tissues in the skin. The research has been published in Nature Communications. See also Science Daily.

Autophagy maintains the metabolism and function of young and old stem cells (Nature). How does the body keep its stem cells healthy over a lifetime? “Our results demonstrate that autophagy actively suppresses haematopoietic stem-cell metabolism by clearing active, healthy mitochondria to maintain quiescence and stemness, and becomes increasingly necessary with age to preserve the regenerative capacity of old haematopoietic stem cells.”

Stem cells derived neuronal networks grown on a chip as an alternative to animal testing (Science Daily). Scientists at the University of Bern are experimenting with stem cells assays in “multi-electrode arrays capable of detecting the biological activity of Clostridium botulinum neurotoxins.” This method “could serve in minimizing animal experiments as well as provide a physiological relevant platform for drug-screening of neuroactive compounds.”

Findings reveal effect of embryonic neural stem cell development on later nerve regeneration capacity (Medical Xpress).

The cells responsible for neurogenesis in the mature brain are called adult neural stem cells, but little is known about their developmental origins. Now an international research collaboration led by Magdalena Götz, Professor of Physiological Genomics at LMU’s Biomedical Center and Director of the Institute for Stem Cell Research at the Helmholtz Zentrum Munich, has demonstrated that the mode of division of stem cells has a profound influence on the numbers of adult neural stem cells formed during embryonic development.

Scientists wage fight against aging bone marrow stem cell niche (Science Daily). Scientists at Cincinnati Hospital are also looking at hematopoietic stem cells and how they age. Trouble is, the bone marrow also ages with the HSCs. These scientists “propose rejuvenating the bone marrow niche where HSCs are created.”

DNA repair and replication links to pluripotency and differentiation capacity of pig iPS cells (PLoS One). This paper looks into whether iPSCs derived from pig cells are stable enough to be used in human treatments.

Bioethics and Genome Editing

Scientists create artificial mouse ’embryo’ from stem cells for first time (Science Daily). Studying how mouse embryos develop is OK, but if mad scientists start creating human embryos from stem cells some day, it won’t matter if they came from adult stem cells or iPSCs. It will still be morally wrong. These scientists are looking for workarounds to the shortage of human embryos to play with, and the 13-day rule for destroying them.

Bioethics: Democracy in vitro (Nature). In this Book Review, “Insoo Hyun weighs up a treatise exploring the ethical deliberations surrounding embryo research.” The book is Experiments in Democracy: Human Embryo Research and the Politics of Bioethics,  by J. Benjamin Hurlbut (Columbia University Press: 2017).

US science advisers outline path to genetically modified babies (Nature). This related bioethics story should sound alarms. “Modified human embryos should be allowed if researchers meet strict criteria, says long-awaited National Academies report.”

Safe and ethical ways to edit the human genome (The Conversation). Rosa Castro gives 10 guidelines for avoiding the ethical qualms about a brave new world of “designer babies.”

First results of CRISPR gene editing of normal embryos released (New Scientist). It’s coming. The Chinese have already started. Is the world ready for direct editing of the human genome? Can ethics keep up with the technology? This liberal news service doesn’t seem overly concerned about it. It’s a way to cure deadly genetic diseases; isn’t that a moral thing? It always starts out that way, but eugenics waits in the wings. What happens to those born with the genetic disease? How will they be treated? Read about other issues, such as “mosaicism” – editing that doesn’t fix all the bugs.




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