Quality Control For Stem Cells

Jun 27, 2016

Four Japanese institutions have announced they will collaborate to cure age-related macular degeneration using banked stem cells. Scientists will take cells from donors and implant them into twenty patients with the disease, at a fraction of the cost of using the patient's own cells.

This is the second go round for Japan. In 2014 Ripken Research Institute performed the world's first transplant of induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS) using the patient's stem cells. According to the Asian Review, doctors transplanted iPS-derived retinal tissue, but it was very expensive, about $931,000.

iPS derived tissue are specialized cells that can be reprogrammed to become any cell type in the body-a condition that mimics the function of human embryonic stem cells (hESCs). They are harvested from adult skin and infant cord blood cells.

Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center is working to make sure this growing area of medical research is grounded in safe and sound science.

Carolyn Lutzko, PhD, director of translational development in the Translational Core Laboratories at Children's, is the senior author in a study that examined the quality of stem cells.

Dr. Carolyn Lutzko discovered 30 percent of the cell lines submitted by other research institutions were genetically unstable.
Credit Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center

Lutzko collected 58 cell lines from different U.S. research institutions and tested them . Experts say genetic stability is critical to avoid the risk of triggering cancer or other medical problems. In the Biomedical Informatics Division at Children's, Dr. Nathan Salamonis studied the stem cells, generating large sets of data including cell programming, gene regulation and the quality of the cells.

Suprisingly, Lutzko says, about 30 percent of the cell lines people sent were of very poor quality.

Dr. Taosheng  Huang also works at Cincinnati Children's. In a different study he determined that as people age they accumulate gene mutations in their mitochondria, the energy source of cells. And that could cause the cells to be faulty. He suggests banking younger cells if possible.

The researchers also created an on-line web portal and database, giving scientists open access to the data.

Lutzko's next study is looking at the cell lines of patients with specific diseases to see whether that impacts the stem cells. She says, "The goal with that is that we can learn how to use the stem cells and then whether in the future we really will be able to develop safe lines from patients with disease to help correct their disease."

She expects clinical trials in about five years.