Researchers Overcome Obstacle For Future Stem Cell Therapies


Source: University of British Columbia

Summary: Researchers have discovered a new technique that overcomes one of the major challenges of stem cell therapy. If this technique works as well as it did in lab mice, it could help bring new stem cell treatments closer to reality.


Muscular dystrophy (MD), a genetic disease in which muscles get damaged over time and weaken. Researchers were interested in using stem cells to help regenerate muscle tissue for the treatment of MD. Stem cells hold promise for such diseases because of their ability to differentiate or produce new cells that can form into specialized tissues in the human body. It is hard to develop successful treatments, especially for muscle, because once the stem cells are isolated in a lab dish, they stop simply being stem cells and begin to differentiate. In this case, the muscle stem cells stop dividing and become muscle fibers, which do not transplant well. Researchers from the University of British Columbia and Stanford University co-created a drug (technique) that overcomes one of the major challenges of stem cell therapy. The study findings were published in the journal Cell Stem Cell.

Stem-cell therapy is the use of stem cells to treat or prevent a disease

Researchers have discovered a new technique to overcome one of the major challenges of stem cell therapy – their tendency to differentiate. Credit: Cell Stem Cell

Stem cells are like flour – they can be baked into any number of things like pies, cookies or bread – but once that happens, there is no going back to flour. The researchers identified a protein known as Setd7 that plays a role in controlling stem cell growth and their maturation into muscle fibers. The drug developed by them was able to inhibit the Setd7 protein to prevent the stem cells from differentiating so they could continue to divide. They then implanted these stem cells into the hind leg of mice affected by a mouse-model of muscular dystrophy and found that the cells fused to the muscle, regenerated the tissue and improved the strength of the muscle. If this technique works as well as it did in lab mice, it could help bring new stem cell treatments closer to reality.

Lead author of the paper Robert Judson said, “This discovery unveils a new method to boost the therapeutic potential of muscle stem cells, allowing these cells, when transplanted into damaged tissue, to facilitate tissue regeneration and improve muscle function.”


More Information: Robert N. Judson et al, “Inhibition of Methyltransferase Setd7 Allows the In Vitro Expansion of Myogenic Stem Cells with Improved Therapeutic Potential”, Cell Stem Cell (2018).DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.stem.2017.12.010


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