BioE®, Inc. has announced that researchers at the University of Minnesota, using BioE's proprietary stem cell isolation technology, derived the company's Multi-Lineage Progenitor Cell™ (MLPC™) from cord blood and differentiated it into lung cells responsible for making surfactant, a substance enabling respiration.
To the researchers' and BioE's best knowledge, this is the first time human stem cells - from any source - have differentiated into type II alveolar cells, the type of epithelial cells that help stabilize the lung's air sacs during breathing.
Type II alveolar cells also can turn into type I alveolar cells, which form the thin, blood-gas barrier through which gas exchange occurs during respiration.
Results of the University of Minnesota's MLPC study were presented this past weekend at the International Society for Cellular Therapy's (ISCT's) 12th annual meeting in Berlin.
"Turning a cord blood stem cell into an alveolar cell represents a significant milestone in stem cell research," said David McKenna, M.D., assistant professor of Lab Medicine and Pathology and assistant medical director of the Clinical Cell Therapy Lab at the University of Minnesota, and BioE research collaborator.
"Though further research is needed, it's plausible the MLPC could be used to help develop a human lung model for research purposes and/or eventual therapeutic application to treat a number of respiratory conditions - such as emphysema and pulmonary fibrosis, as well as pulmonary injury due to therapy-related causes."
The results of the University of Minnesota study also further demonstrate the MLPC's ability as a cord blood stem cell to expand and differentiate - in a controllable fashion - into tissues representative of the three germinal layers (e.g., ectoderm, mesoderm and endoderm), which give rise to the body's more complex tissues, organs and organ systems.
Typically, researchers confirm endodermal potential by differentiating a stem cell into hepatic (liver) cells.
In the case of the MLPC, researchers have demonstrated its endodermal potential by turning it not only into liver and pancreas precursors, but now, alveolar cells.
"The latest University of Minnesota research on the MLPC confirms our belief that it has vast potential as a robust research tool," said Michael Haider, president and chief executive officer for BioE.
"The availability of a highly functional human lung model in vitro is something that has eluded researchers for some time and will prove to be very valuable for studying respiratory conditions."
"We look forward to working with Dr. McKenna and his team to translate this early MLPC discovery into a human model for lung disease research in the near future and potentially therapeutic applications thereafter."