Large scale, cost-effective stem cell factories able to keep up with demand for new therapies to treat a range of human illnesses are a step closer to reality, thanks to a scientific breakthrough involving researchers at The University of Nottingham.
Currently, stem cells are cultured using animal-derived products that encourage the cells to reproduce without losing their pluripotency — their ability to be turned into any type of adult stem cell, whether it be a cardio myocyte to be used in treating heart attack victims or a bone cell for growing new bone to graft to a patient’s own.
However, the potential for cross-species contamination and the difficulty in reproducing these cells in large numbers means that while they are useful as a research tool, a synthetic alternative would be essential for the treatment of patients.
In a paper published, a team of Nottingham scientists led by Professor Morgan Alexander (pictured) in the University’s School of Pharmacy, reveal they have discovered some man-made acrylate polymers which allow stem cells to reproduce while maintaining their pluripotency.
Professor Alexander said, “This is an important breakthrough which could have significant implications for a wide range of stem cell therapies, including cancer, heart failure, muscle damage and a number of neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s and Huntington’s.”
“One of these new manmade materials may translate into an automated method of growing pluripotent stem cells which will be able to keep up with demand from emerging therapies that will require cells on an industrial scale, while being both cost-effective and safer for patients.”
Illustration: University of Nottingham.
University of Nottingham News Release (08/31/10)
Abstract (Nature Materials; 9, 768-778 (08/22/10))