Researchers from the New York Stem Cell Foundation (NYSCF) research institute have been able to extract stem cells from patient samples reliably. The procedure, involving a high-throughput robotic platform (NYSCF Global Stem Cell ArrayTM), could enable researchers to tailor-make treatments for individual patients for a variety of diseases and conditions.
Stem cells are undifferentiated cells in various regions of our bodies, with the potential to differentiate into numerous kinds of specialized cells (pluripotent). They serve as a repair system in the body and get mobilized to areas where repair is necessary. Stem cells could be derived from embryos or adult human cells. Since there are quite a few ethical considerations for the use of embryonic stem cells, research has been focused on harnessing the potential of adult stem cells, also called somatic stem cells. Adult stem cells have been harvested and used in the treatment of various disorderslike arthritic knees.
Somatic stem cells are less flexible to work with than embryonic stem cells, and manual manipulation of these cells could introduce variability in the stem cell population. The publication under discussion here reports extraction and purification of adult stem cells with minimal variability. The research team used skin biopsies from subjects to generate induced Pluripotent Stem cells (iPS cells), which could then be turned into specific cell types in a highly customized fashion. Simply put, the scientists have been successful in developing a robotic platform for the generation of fairly uniform iPS cells.
The following are the key potential applications and advantages of the NYSCF Global Stem Cell ArrayTM developed by NYSCF:
- NYSCF Global Stem Cell Array can help reduce variability in stem cell population that is introduced in manual manipulation
- The array can derive genetic basis of diseases and conditions in individuals, thereby enabling “tailor-made” treatment options
- The development of this technology allows researchers to study differences in drug metabolism and toxicity in human cells, rather than animal systems.
- New drugs could be tested for efficacy in individuals by using their own cells.
- Clinical trials could be conducted with patients’ cells in a dish.
In the words of Dr. Scott Noggle (as stated in the NYSCF Press release), the senior author of the publication and Vice President of stem cell research at NYSCF, "For many common diseases such as diabetes and Alzheimer's, using stem cell models to understand these diseases has relied on a few rare genetic mutations affecting only a small percentage of all sufferers. However, it has been difficult to study the more common genetic risk factors that affect the majority of patients with these diseases using stem cell models. Our automated system will enable large-scale stem cell experiments needed to understand how these risk factors directly contribute to disease."
Dr. Todd Sherer, CEO of The Michael J Fox Foundation says in the NYSCF Press Release, "The cell lines generated by The New York Stem Cell Foundation using the NYSCF Array are an important tool to help us better understand and develop new treatments to prevent or slow the progression of Parkinson's disease, especially in combination with emerging comprehensive biomarker data. The ability to quickly test hypotheses in human cells on a large scale will be of great benefit to our research pursuit."
Written by Mangala Sarkar Ph.D.