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Some Stem Cells Are Rejected, Some Aren’t, Says iPSC Work

Wed, 10/21/2015 - 9:38am Cynthia Fox, Science Writer Embryonic stem (ES) cell-like stem cells made from adult cells—and morphed into eye cells—are not rejected by the immune system, according to “humanized mouse” data in Cell Stem Cell. Coming alongside news that the first UK macular degeneration patient received eye cells made from normal ES cells, the study spells hope that many patients’ adult cells may soon be turned into potent ES cell-like cells (induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs))—and then new eye cells—to fight blindness. The Cell Stem Cell paper also offered a different kind of eye-opener however: while eye cells (called retinal pigment epithelium (RPE)) cells from iPSCs are accepted by the immune system, other cells from the same iPSCs may be rejected: smooth muscle cells (SMCs). “I found this paper striking,” Paul Knoepfler, Ph.D., University of California, Davis, iPSC expert, told Bioscience Technology. Knoepfler was uninvolved with the study. “There was a presumption that we could make cells from iPSCs and give them back to the patient and not worry about it. That this may not always be true should be on our radar screens, especially given the momentum out there to do clinical studies with iPSCs.” “This paper addresses key questions in the field of regenerative medicine; mainly, understanding the immunogenicity of pluripotent stem cell derivatives,” Stanford Cardiovascular Institute Director Joseph Wu, M.D., Ph.D., told Bioscience Technology. Wu was also uninvolved. “Future studies will need to focus on further improvement of the humanized mouse model, which can be used to help us design clinically applicable immunosuppression regimens.” Paul Fairchild, D.Phil., co-director of the University of Oxford Stem Cell Institute, also researches iPSC immunogenicity. "This is an elegant piece of work, which appears to [...]

Vitamin D may play key role in preventing macular degeneration

Amy Millen, associate professor of epidemiology and environmental health in the University at Buffalo's School of Public Health and Health Professions, is lead author on a paper published Aug. 27 in JAMA Ophthalmology. UB research shows women with two risk alleles and low D status are more likely to have the disease By David J. Hill  August 27, 2015  “To our knowledge, this is the first study that’s looked at the interaction between genetic risk and vitamin D status in the context of age-related eye disease.” Having deficient vitamin D status may be unhealthy for your eyes, says UB's Amy Millen. BUFFALO, N.Y. – Vitamin D has been studied extensively in relation to bone health as well as cancer. Now, a team led by a researcher at the University at Buffalo has discovered that vitamin D may play a significant role in eye health, specifically in the possible prevention of age-related macular degeneration, or AMD, among women who are more genetically prone to developing the sight-damaging disease. In a paper published today (Aug. 27) in JAMA Ophthalmology online, Amy Millen, associate professor of epidemiology and environmental health in UB’s School of Public Health and Health Professions, and her team found that women who are deficient in vitamin D and have a specific high-risk genotype are 6.7 times more likely to develop AMD than women with sufficient vitamin D status and no high risk genotype. “Most people have heard that you should eat carrots to help your vision. However, there appear to be many other ways that adequate nutrition can support eye health. Having adequate vitamin D status may be one of them,” says Millen, PhD, the study’s lead author. “This is not a study that can, alone, [...]

New clues found to vision loss in macular degeneration​​​

August 11, 2015 By Jim Dryden APTE LABORATORY PHOTO In this image of the retina, normal blood vessels (green) surround a clump of new, abnormal vessels that has formed beneath the center of the retina. Scientists at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have identified a molecular pathway that leads to the formation of such blood vessels, which can cause blindness in people with age-related macular degeneration. Scientists have identified a pathway that leads to the formation of atypical blood vessels that can cause blindness in people with age-related macular degeneration. The research, atWashington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, sheds light on one of the leading causes of blindness in industrialized countries and offers potential targets for treating the disease. The study is published online Aug. 11 in the journal Nature Communications. “Our research increases our understanding of how specific immune cells can contribute to vision loss in macular degeneration, and it also may help us identify treatments by giving us a molecular pathway to target,” said principal investigator and retina specialist Rajendra S. Apte, MD, PhD. “When we inhibit this pathway, we can alter the immune cells and interfere with abnormal blood vessel growth in mice. Doing so might open therapeutic avenues to halt vision loss or even restore sight in people who have macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness in people over 50.” Apte, the Paul Cibis Distinguished Professor of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences at the School of Medicine, has spent years studying the immune system in the eye to distinguish changes related to aging from those related to disease. In earlier work, he found that a cell-signaling molecule, called interleukin-10 (IL10), plays a role in the formation [...]

Scientists Say Fetal Tissue Essential for Medical Research

Wed, 08/12/2015 - 10:00am Collin Binkley and Carla K. Johnson, Associated Press In this Aug. 10, 2015, photo, Dr. Akhilesh Pandey, a researcher at Johns Hopkins University, poses alongside a mass spectrometer in his laboratory in Baltimore. Pandey's research analyzes both adult and fetal tissue, and by identifying which proteins are present, he can get clues that could be used to help detect cancer in adults earlier. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)The furor on Capitol Hill over Planned Parenthood has stoked a debate about the use of tissue from aborted fetuses in medical research, but U.S. scientists have been using such cells for decades to develop vaccines and seek treatments for a host of ailments, from vision loss to cancer and AIDS.Anti-abortion activists triggered the uproar by releasing undercover videos of Planned Parenthood officials that raised questions of whether the organization was profiting from the sale of fetal tissue. Planned Parenthood has denied making any profit and said it charges fees solely to cover its costs. University laboratories that buy such cells strongly defend their research, saying tissue that would otherwise be thrown out has played a vital role in lifesaving medical advances and holds great potential for further breakthroughs. Fetal cells are considered ideal because they divide rapidly, adapt to new environments easily and are less susceptible to rejection than adult cells when transplanted. "If researchers are unable to work with fetal tissue, there is a huge list of diseases for which researchers would move much more slowly, rather than quickly, to find their cause and how they can be cured," Stanford University spokeswoman Lisa Lapin said in an email. From 2011 through 2014 alone, 97 research institutions - mostly universities and hospitals - received a [...]

New technology looks into the eye and brings cells into focus

Photo by L. Brian Stauffer Dr. Stephen Boppart led a team that developed a new medical imaging device that can see individual cells in the back of the eye to better diagnose and track disease. From left: postdoctoral researcher Yuan-Zhi Liu, graduate student Fredrick A. South, and professor Stephen Boppart. 6/22/2015 | Liz Ahlberg, Physical Sciences Editor | CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Eye doctors soon could use computing power to help them see individual cells in the back of a patient’s eye, thanks to imaging technology developed by engineers at the University of Illinois. Such detailed pictures of the cells, blood vessels and nerves at the back of the eye could enable earlier diagnosis and better treatment for degenerative eye and neurological diseases. New technology uses computational techniques to more clearly see individual rods and cones, the cells that detect light in the back of the eye | Graphic by Alex Jerez Roman The technique applies adaptive optics – the method astronomers use to correct telescope images so they can more clearly see stars beyond the twinkling – to the instruments that scan the retina at the back of the eye. However, the Illinois team does the correction computationally, instead of using complex hardware. Led by electrical and computer engineering professor Stephen Boppart, the research team published its work in the journal Nature Photonics. “The eye has always been a bit of a challenge to image. It’s a very complicated organ,” said Dr. Boppart, who also is a medical doctor. “There are many microscopic structures that are hard to see. Many diseases that affect vision also start at the microscopic level, so being able to see those early changes is going to lead to better, earlier [...]

NIH Grant to Improve Treatment of Wet Age-Related Macular Degeneration Received

RegenerativeMedicine.net, by Staff ~ July 2, 2013 Dr. Steven Little said, “This grant will further enable research that builds upon our ongoing collaboration with Qrono. It is an excellent example of how an academic-industry collaboration can enable better medications.” The National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS), National Institutes of Health (NIH), awarded Qrono Inc. a Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Phase I grant for $256,000 to improve the treatment options for wet age-related macular degeneration (wet AMD) and fund further development of the company’s predictive modeling technology for the design of long-acting injectable (LAI) drug formulations. The research will be conducted in collaboration with The Little Lab at the Swanson School of Engineering at the University of Pittsburgh. Headed by McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine faculty member Steven Little, PhD, chair of the Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering, associate professor, and Bicentennial Alumni Faculty Fellow of the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering, the Little Lab explores synthetic drug delivery strategies that mimic those of cells and tissues in order to enhance (or alternatively endow new) biological functionality. To this end, researchers explore new ways to produce complex presentations of bio-active molecules over time and space. The mission is twofold. Specifically, researchers aim to utilize biomimetic delivery systems to achieve both: 1) enhanced therapeutic efficiency for future drug formulations (e.g. “medicine that imitates life”) as well as 2) understanding of basic biological processes that are otherwise obscured without engineering tools that can be tuned to replicate multi-modal cellular “language.” Wet AMD is a leading cause of vision loss among older adults and can progress very quickly due to abnormal blood vessel growth behind the retina. Ranibizumab and bevacizumab are two drugs that [...]

Cholesterol buildup links atherosclerosis and macular degeneration

April 2, 2013 - By Jim Dryden A new study raises the intriguing possibility that drugs prescribed to lower cholesterol may be effective against macular degeneration, a blinding eye disease. Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have found that age-related macular degeneration, the leading cause of vision loss in Americans over 50, shares a common link with atherosclerosis. Both problems have the same underlying defect: the inability to remove a buildup of fat and cholesterol. The new study is published online in the journal Cell Metabolism. PHOTO APTE LABORATORY Beneath the retina of a patient with macular degeneration, the small light dots against the orange background are cholesterol deposits, and as cholesterol builds up, the area becomes inflamed, spurring the development of abnormal blood vessels that can lead to loss of vision. Working in mice and in human cells, the researchers shed new light on how deposits of cholesterol contribute to macular degeneration and atherosclerosis and even blood vessel growth in some types of cancer. Patients who have atherosclerosis often are prescribed medications to lower cholesterol and keep arteries clear. This study suggests that some of those same drugs could be evaluated in patients with macular degeneration. “Based on our findings, we need to investigate whether vision loss caused by macular degeneration could be prevented with cholesterol-lowering eye drops or other medications that might prevent the buildup of lipids beneath the retina,” says senior investigator Rajendra S. Apte, MD, PhD. The new research centers on macrophages, key immune cells that remove cholesterol and fats from tissues. In macular degeneration, the excessive buildup of cholesterol begins to occur as we age, and our macrophages begin to malfunction. In the “dry” form of age-related macular degeneration, doctors [...]

Stem Cells Improve Visual Function in Blind Mice

Tuesday, October 2, 2012 By: Staff ~ ScienceDaily An experimental treatment for blindness, developed from a patient's skin cells, improved the vision of blind mice in a study conducted by Columbia ophthalmologists and stem cell researchers. The findings suggest that induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells -- which are derived from adult human skin cells but have embryonic properties -- could soon be used to restore vision in people with macular degeneration and other diseases that affect the eye's retina. "With eye diseases, I think we're getting close to a scenario where a patient's own skin cells are used to replace retina cells destroyed by disease or degeneration," says the study's principal investigator, Stephen Tsang, MD, PhD, associate professor of ophthalmology and pathology & cell biology. "It's often said that iPS transplantation will be important in the practice of medicine in some distant future, but our paper suggests the future is almost here." The advent of human iPS cells in 2007 was greeted with excitement from scientists who hailed the development as a way to avoid the ethical complications of embryonic stem cells and create patient-specific stem cells. Like embryonic stem cells, iPS cells can develop into any type of cell. Thousands of different iPS cell lines from patients and healthy donors have been created in the last few years, but they are almost always used in research or drug screening. No iPS cells have been transplanted into people, but many ophthalmologists say the eye is the ideal testing ground for iPS therapies. "The eye is a transparent and accessible part of the central nervous system, and that's a big advantage. We can put cells into the eye and monitor them every day with routine non-invasive [...]

ACT Announces First Dry AMD Patient Treated with Higher Dosage of Embryonic Stem Cell-Derived RPE Cells

Thursday, August 2, 2012 By: Market Watch Wall Street Journal Patient with Dry Age-Related Macular Degeneration Injected with 100,000 Retinal Pigment Epithelial Cells at Wills Eye Institute in Philadelphia. MARLBOROUGH, Mass., Aug 02, 2012 (BUSINESS WIRE) -- Advanced Cell Technology, Inc. ("ACT"; OTCBB: ACTC), a leader in the field of regenerative medicine, today announced treatment of the fourth patient, the first in the second patient cohort, in the company's Phase I/II clinical trial for dry age-related macular degeneration (dry AMD) using retinal pigment epithelial (RPE) cells derived from human embryonic stem cells (hESCs). The surgery was performed on Wednesday, Aug. 1 at Wills Eye Institute in Philadelphia, by a surgical team lead by Carl D. Regillo, M.D., Chief of the Wills Eye Institute Retina Service, and professor of ophthalmology at Thomas Jefferson University. The patient was injected with 100,000 hESC-derived RPE cells and is recovering uneventfully. "We are very pleased to have the second dose cohort in both of our U.S. clinical trials underway," commented Gary Rabin, chairman and CEO of ACT. "We are encouraged by our ongoing progress in all three of our clinical trials using our hESC-derived RPE cells to treat forms of macular degeneration. We have not observed any complications or side effects from the stem cell-derived RPE cells, and we will continue to monitor the patients for safety, tolerability and efficacy of this therapy." The dry AMD trial is one of three clinical trials being carried out by the company in the U.S. and in Europe. Each trial will enroll 12 patients, with cohorts of three patients in an ascending dosage format. These trials are prospective, open-label studies, designed to determine the safety and tolerability of hESC-derived RPE cells following sub-retinal [...]

Stem cell scientists take hope from first human trials but see long road ahead

Monday, June 4, 2012 By: Sarah Boseley Much hangs on outcome of first human trials amid funding difficulties, political opposition and public suspicion Health Editor, guardian.co.uk Marcus Hilton sits in front of the TV and stares at the Sky News headlines scrolling along the bottom of the screen. If he moves his head about he can find the little patch of vision in his right eye where letters jump from a tiny size to suddenly bigger. It is a small but crucial difference for Hilton, and it represents a huge scientific achievement. Hilton has the distinction of being the first person in the UK to receive a transplant of human embryonic stem cells. He hasStargardt's disease, a condition that destroys the central vision of the eyes at an early age. His view of the world is limited to what the rest of us catch on the edge of our field of vision. He was diagnosed when he was about 10, after various pairs of glasses did no good at all. Now 34, he recalls: "I could never see the blackboard. I was blagging my way through school – native wit.". Scientists hope that stem cells may restore the sight of people like Hilton and the many millions of older people suffering from macular degeneration, the most common cause of blindness. Hilton is part of the world's first trial using retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) made from stem cells derived originally from embryos left over from fertility treatment. That makes the treatment controversial for some people, particularly in the US where Advanced Cell Technology (ACT), the company that has produced the RPE cells and is running the trial, is based. "I've had a few bizarre emails from crazy Americans," says [...]