Stem cell analogues grown without animal products

Thursday, 17 January, 2019

Stem cell analogues grown without animal products

Scientists from the New York Stem Cell Foundation (NYSCF) Research Institute have reported valuable progress towards creating clinical-grade cells for treatment of bone disease and injury.

As noted in the journal Stem Cell Research and Therapy, the team have identified two types of growth media that could support effective expansion of mesenchymal progenitor (MP) cells from stem cells in a clinically compatible, Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) setting. GMP guidelines require that cells to be used as therapies are created without the use of animal-derived substances.

“NYSCF is committed to bringing effective cellular therapies to patients in need,” said NYSCF CEO Susan L Solomon. “To establish these therapies, it is essential to produce high-quality cells that meet safety requirements for clinical use, which is a step that this research is helping us achieve.”

MP cells are important because they resemble mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs). MSCs can go on to form a variety of cell types — including bone cells, cartilage cells, muscle cells and fat cells — and can modulate the behaviour of many other types of cell types in the body. They are a frequent target for cell therapies in which healthy cells are introduced into the body to treat diseases or reconstruct tissues and organs.

But MSCs are often scarce, and do not expand well enough to provide the number of cells needed for an effective therapy. MP cells, on the other hand, can be produced in large numbers for each patient when generated from induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs). They therefore hold extraordinary promise for the treatment of blood, heart and immune diseases, as well as repair of damaged bone and cartilage.

“MP cells have been derived from iPSCs before, but never in a growth medium that does not contain animal-derived compounds,” said Giuseppe Maria de Peppo, NYSCF – Ralph Lauren Senior Investigator, who led the study.

The researchers compared MP cells grown in a medium supplemented with foetal bovine serum, a product derived from cows, to MP cells grown in two different ‘xeno-free’ media (ie, made without animal products) — one supplemented with human platelet lysates and one commercial high-performance GMP medium (Allegro Unison Medium). The team found that while MP cells grown in the xeno-free and GMP media showed slightly different cell morphology, expansion potential, gene expression and cytokine profile than those grown in the medium containing foetal bovine serum, the cells were healthy and functional in these new conditions. Collectively, the results show promise for the eventual application of MP cells in cellular therapies.

“We are glad to see that MP cells grown in GMP-compliant media showed the same biological and functional properties as those grown in research-grade media that contains animal products,” de Peppo said. “The results will help us plan for movement of these cells out of the lab and into the clinic.”

Image caption: This is a cell painting showing the production of the cytoskeletal proteins F-actin and vimentin in induced pluripotent stem cell-derived mesodermal progenitors. Image credit: Giuseppe Maria de Peppo, NYSCF.

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