Landmark Stem Cell System Could Regenerate Multiple Tissue Types

Credit: UMHealthSystem

Reprogramming adult fat cells into a new type of stem cell could transform regenerative medicine

Researchers at UNSW in Australia have successfully reprogrammed adult fat cells into induced multipotent cells (iMS) - non-specific cells that could regenerate a huge range of tissue types across the body. While other stem cell types like embryonic stem cells have huge potential, they can be difficult to source and carry their own risks. Developing adult cells capable of repairing multiple tissue types could therefore fast forward regenerative medicine. 

"This technique is a significant advance on many of the current unproven stem cell therapies, which have shown little or no objective evidence they contribute directly to new tissue formation. We are currently assessing whether adult human fat cells reprogrammed into iMS cells can safely repair damaged tissue in mice, with human trials expected to begin in late 2017"

What did they do?

The researchers isolated human fat cells and applied both 5-Azacytidine (AZA) and platelet-derived growth factor-AB (PDGF-AB) for 2 days. The AZA is then removed and cells are retained on the growth factor for up to 3 weeks. AZA is already known to 'reprogram' cells, unwinding their controls and allowing them to revert to a plastic state. The growth factor element then transforms these cells into the final iMS type. 

"This technique is ground-breaking because iMS cells regenerate multiple tissue types. We have taken bone and fat cells, switched off their memory and converted them into stem cells so they can repair different cell types once they are put back inside the body"

Credit: Michael Whitehead/UNSW

The novel approach resembles salamander regeneration, because it relies on differentiated adult cells to repair tissue. It may also offer 2 major improvements over alternative therapies: proving safer than embryonic stem cells, which can cause tumours in some cases, and representing a new, faster way of creating multipotent cells without using a virus. It remains to be seen whether it'll prove effective and safe in human use yet, but if it does it could be a big step forward. 

Read more at Phys.org