Corporate Banner
Satellite Banner
Stem Cells, Cellular Therapy & Biobanking
Scientific Community
Become a Member | Sign in
Home>News>This Article

Stem Cells may do Best with a Little Help from their Friends

Published: Wednesday, September 11, 2013
Last Updated: Wednesday, September 11, 2013
Bookmark and Share
“Helper cells” improve survival rate of transplanted stem cells, mouse study finds.

Like volunteers handing out cups of energy drinks to marathon runners, specially engineered “helper cells” transplanted along with stem cells can dole out growth factors to increase the stem cells’ endurance, at least briefly, Johns Hopkins researchers report. Their study, published in the September issue of Experimental Neurology, is believed to be the first to test the helper-cell tactic, which they hope will someday help to overcome a major barrier to successful stem cell transplants.

“One of the bottlenecks with stem cell therapy is the survival of cells once they’re put in the body — about 80 to 90 percent of them often appear to die,” says Jeff Bulte, Ph.D., a professor in the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine’s Institute for Cell Engineering. “We discovered it helps to put the stem cells in with some buddies that give off growth factors.”

Stem cells can morph to take on any role in the body, making them theoretically useful to treat conditions ranging from type 1 diabetes (replacing insulin-producing cells in the pancreas) to heart disease (taking over for damaged heart cells). The biggest problem for transplanted stem cells, Bulte says, is that they’re initially grown in a dish with ready access to oxygen, then put in the body, where levels are relatively low. “They get a shock,” he says. Other research groups have had some success with acclimating cells to lower oxygen levels before transplantation; another promising strategy has been to provide the stem cells with scaffolds that give them structure and help integrate them with the host.

The research team, spearheaded by postdoctoral fellow Yajie Liang, Ph.D., wondered whether the cells’ survival could also be enhanced with steady doses of a compound called basic fibroblast growth factor (bFGF), an “energy drink” that spurs cells to grow. They engineered cultured human and mouse cells to make greater-than-normal amounts of bFGF under the control of a drug called doxycycline (dox). Making the bFGF gene responsive to dox meant the researchers could control how much bFGF was made, Liang explains.

The team then transplanted the engineered helper cells and stem cells into mice. The stem cells had themselves been engineered to make a luminescent protein, and using a special optical instrument, the researchers could monitor the intensity of the luminescence through the animals’ skin to see how many of the cells were still alive. The team gave the mice steady doses of dox to keep the bFGF flowing.

For the first three days after injection, the stem cells with helpers gave off a noticeably stronger signal than stem cells transplanted alone, Liang says, but a few days later, there was no difference between the two.

Despite the short duration of the helper cells’ effect, Bulte says, the experiment shows the potential of using helper cells in this way. Perhaps the ultimate solution to keeping transplanted stem cells alive will be to use helpers that give off a cocktail of growth factors, he suggests, as well as pre-conditioning for low oxygen conditions and scaffolds. “Once the rubber hits the road, it’s very important that the stem cells survive for a long time,” he says.

Further Information
Access to this exclusive content is for Technology Networks Premium members only.

Join Technology Networks Premium for free access to:

  • Exclusive articles
  • Presentations from international conferences
  • Over 2,800+ scientific posters on ePosters
  • More than 4,000+ scientific videos on LabTube
  • 35 community eNewsletters

Sign In

Forgotten your details? Click Here
If you are not a member you can join here

*Please note: By logging into you agree to accept the use of cookies. To find out more about the cookies we use and how to delete them, see our privacy policy.

Related Content

Bad Luck of Random Mutations Plays Predominant Role in Cancer, Study Shows
Statistical modeling links cancer risk with number of stem cell divisions.
Tuesday, January 06, 2015
Researchers Use Human Stem Cells to Create Light-Sensitive Retina in a Dish
Johns Hopkins researchers have created a 3-D complement of human retinal tissue in the laboratory.
Saturday, June 14, 2014
Signals Found That Recruit Host Animals’ Cells, Enabling Breast Cancer Metastasis
Mouse studies suggest that blocking aid from white blood cells and stem cells could keep tumors contained.
Thursday, May 22, 2014
Tumor-suppressor Protein Gives Up Its Secrets
Discovery promises new targets for cancer drug design.
Friday, July 12, 2013
Patients’ Skin Cells are Transformed into Heart Cells to Create a ‘Disease-In-A-Dish’
Lab model of an inherited, life-threatening disease known as ARVD/C allows researchers to study the condition and find ways to treat it.
Monday, February 18, 2013
Scientific News
Ancient Viral Molecules Essential for Human Development
Genetic material from ancient viral infections is critical to human development, according to researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine.
CRI Identifies Emergency Blood-formation Response
Researchers report that when tissue damage occurs, an emergency blood-formation system activates.
New Way to Force Stem Cells to Become Bone Cells
Potential therapies based on this discovery could help people heal bone injuries or set hardware, such as replacement knees and hips.
Dead Bacteria to Kill Colorectal Cancer
Scientists from Nanyang Technological University (NTU Singapore) have successfully used dead bacteria to kill colorectal cancer cells.
Promise of Newborn Stem Cells to Revolutionize Clinical Practice
In this article Shweta Sharma, PhD, discusses the potential of an Umbilical Cord Blood bank as an untapped source of samples for research and clinical trials.
The Life Story of Stem Cells
A model analyses the development of stem cell numbers in the human body.
Novel Stem Cell Line Avoids Risk of Introducing Transplanted Tumors
Progenitor cells might eventually be used to repair or rebuild damaged or destroyed organs.
Advancing Genome Editing of Blood Stem Cells
Genome editing techniques for blood stem cells just got better, thanks to a team of researchers at USC and Sangamo BioSciences.
Molecule Proves Key to Brain Repair After Stroke
Scientists found that a molecule known as growth and differentiation factor 10 (GDF10) plays a key role in repair mechanisms following stroke.
Towards Patient-Specific Drug Screening
A new breakthrough by the 3D stem cell printing team at Heriot-Watt could pave the way to individually tailored drug testing regimes, both reducing the need for animal testing and ensuring that patients receive drugs which are most effective for their individual needs.
Skyscraper Banner

Skyscraper Banner
Go to LabTube
Go to eposters
Access to the latest scientific news
Exclusive articles
Upload and share your posters on ePosters
Latest presentations and webinars
View a library of 1,800+ scientific and medical posters
2,800+ scientific and medical posters
A library of 2,500+ scientific videos on LabTube
4,000+ scientific videos