New Stem Cell Research Shows Promise for Patient-Matched Blood Cells


An elegant system to derive blood cell precursors from human pluripotent stem cells (hPSC) has now been developed by researchers. This type of stem cell has the potential to develop into many different kinds of cells in the body, and is capable of participating in organ repair and function. These qualities have prompted scientists to test the use of hPSC to treat some diseases. However, the development of a fully defined system to generate functional blood cell precursors has proven to be a significant challenge. The new findings by the Galat laboratory in Chicago, has developed an elegant system to derive blood cell precursors from human hold promise to overcome this challenge.


The approach is reliable, cost-effective and relatively simple. By eliminating variables used in other systems, the lab has streamlined the process of developing blood cell precursors. This allows scientists to study the factors that affect early stages of blood cell development, and provides a mechanism for clinician-researchers to develop therapies for patients.


In a series of experiments, the lab converted adult skin cells into hPSC and then used these patient specific cells to optimize their platform of blood cell precursor derivation. Various assays were employed in order to demonstrate the ability of blood cell precursors to form mature cells of blood lineage. The cells were identified in collaboration with immunology labs at Lurie Children’s Hospital and Rosalind Franklin University.


Previously, scientists have relied on the introduction of external factors—proteins or cells—to induce hPSC to differentiate. In addition to potentially changing the outcomes, these factors can complicate the experimental setup and cause inefficiencies or bias in the generation of blood cell precursors.


“We designed the platform to exclude as many factors that can cause variability in the differentiation outcome as possible. These factors include co-culturing the hPSC with non-human animal cells that secrete an un-measurable amount of substances into the media, which is used to promote differentiation. We also excluded cytokines—proteins that affect hPSC differentiation in various ways depending on their quality,” says Yekaterina Galat, first author on the publication. “We demonstrated that the unique approach we developed efficiently promotes differentiation of hPSC to blood cell precursors, while eliminating many complications,” she continues.


Says corresponding author and laboratory director Dr Vasil Galat, “Our hope is to leverage this platform so that we can help other scientists and clinicians. The cells we derive can be used to study factors for their effects on hPSC differentiation, paving the way for studies of drug efficacy and toxicity, and to model diseases. We envision, for example, the ability to take blood cells from a patient, correct the genetic defects in the lab, and then re-introduce them into the patient. It is hoped that processes such as this can be used to treat blood disorders.”

Science Daily. March 20. Stem Cell Research and Therapy. March 17.

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