A team of North American scientists has unveiled a new technology that could revolutionize the industrialization and commercialization of stem cell therapies. Since the first isolation of human embryonic stem cells in 1998, researchers have struggled to find a means to isolate purified populations of the many hundreds of medically-relevant cell types. Scalability has therefore been a major barrier for development of therapies on a population scale.
While there have been occasional reports that individual cell types have been generated from hES cells, such cells have often been generated in small quantities, not useful on an industrial scale.
Research published this week in Regenerative Medicine, reports on a new technology that yields over 140 previously uncharacterized cell types, many on an industrial scale. This advance holds great promise for future research and may one day lead to many new cell-based therapies in the emerging field of regenerative medicine.
In a paper titled “The ACTCellerate Initiative: large-scale combinatorial cloning of novel human embryonic stem cell derivatives”, a team led by Dr Michael D. West, now CEO, BioTime, Inc and Adjunct Professor, University of California, Berkeley, along with collaborators at Advanced Cell Technology, the Burnham Institute, Ontario Cancer Institute, and the University of California, San Francisco demonstrated that primitive precursors of the many body cell types have an unpredicted ability to be propagated from a single cell, leading to the clonal expansion of these embryonic progenitor cell types.
A careful genome-wide analysis of gene expression showed evidence that the “Zip code” that the developing body uses to place cells in their proper location in the body is preserved in these cells, giving researchers a means to make cell types from a single location in the body.
Another important finding in this publication is that these highly purified cell types show that primitive embryonic cell types show the expression of genes generally associated with malignant cancer. However, when used in this highly purified form, no malignant tumors could be observed when the cells were injected into mice.
Dr Chris Mason (UCL), Associate Editor of Regenerative Medicine said, “This is an enormously exciting development for the regen sector. The research reported by Dr West and his team represents a quantum leap forward in embryomics, the mapping and characterization of the cells of early human development. Without any doubt, the ACTCellerate technology will greatly hasten the translation of human embryonic stem cell-based therapies into safe and effective products for routine clinical practice.”
“The demonstration that combinatorial cloning can lead to numerous and diverse purified cell types opens the door strategies to map the human embryome. This roadmap is critical to the clinical application of the emerging field of regenerative medicine”, said Dr. West.