May 31, 2020

Stem cell news & pubs: Parkinson’s, Freezing, COVID, & More

Stem cell news & pubs: Parkinson's, Freezing, COVID, & More

I find following both stem cell news and the stream of interesting publications to be kind of fun and thought-provoking.

This past week or two has been very busy. Here is a news summary and list of notable pubs.

Stem Cell News on Parkinson’s Disease

There were a number of interesting developments on the Parkinson’s Disease front.

Over at STAT News, Sharon Begley wrote about a “secret” experiment in this piece: A secret experiment revealed: In a medical first, doctors treat Parkinson’s with a novel brain cell transplant. The idea here is to make induced pluripotent stem cells or iPS cells and differentiate them into dopamine-producing neurons to treat patients with Parkinson’s.

Many groups are working this area in Japan, the U.S., and elsewhere. For instance, in Japan Jun Takahashi launched an IPS cells for Parkinson’s clinical trial a couple years back.

It’s a great story from Begley, but a few complicated and puzzling things came to mind. First, why the secret? If you have FDA approval, why not be open. In my view secret clinical science is generally not a good way to go for many reasons. The other thing was why take the protein-based reprogramming approach to make iPS cells? I suppose it’s a fine way to go as a non-genetic method, but if the protein angle was your bottleneck, then why not switch?

Does Freezing Change Cells including Stem Cells?

There’s also some stem cell news on a more technical note, but with big clinical implications. We cell biologists routinely freeze our cells, but how sure can we be that when we thaw them that they haven’t changed in important ways? It’s a crucial question and there isn’t enough data on it.

Moll, et al. effect of freezing on stem cells including a problematic inflammatory reaction shown in Figure 1A.

In a new paper in Stem Cells, first author Guido Moll and a team led by Katarina LeBlanc tackle this for MSCs. The paper, entitled,  Do Cryopreserved Mesenchymal Stromal Cells Display Impaired Immunomodulatory and Therapeutic Properties? has some notable findings. The short answer to the question of their title is, “Yes.” The key take-home from the paper, “We found that freeze‐thawed MSCs, as opposed to cells harvested from continuous cultures, have impaired immunomodulatory and blood regulatory properties.”

See Fig. 1A above showing that the frozen cells also trigger an immune reaction described as, “Freeze‐thawed MSCs elicit an increased triggering of the instant blood mediated inflammatory reaction (IBMIR).” IBMIR is probably not a good thing to have happen inside patients’ bodies.

Stem Cells for COVID-19

It’s good to see another call for more careful approaches to the general of stem cells for COVID-19. Here is a pub from a team led by Daniel J. Weiss we have in Cytotherapy, “Cell-Based Therapies for COVID-19: Proper Clinical Investigations are Essential.” As readers of The Niche know I’ve been very concerned about hype and even reckless statements surrounding unproven cell therapies for COVID-19. You can see some of my concerns here.

And some recent notable stem cell papers

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