04 June 2019

Scientists have developed a method for the long-term culture of mouse haematopoietic stem cells in the laboratory – raising hopes of significant improvements in stem cell transplants.

A new technique allowed scientists to multiply mouse stem cell numbers nearly 900-fold in one month, it was reported in the journal Nature.

The developers say that an increased supply of stem cells will reduce the need for high intensity conditioning therapy.

The findings were welcomed by the British charity Bloodwise, which part‑funded the work at Stanford University, USA, and the University of Tokyo, Japan.

One key aspect of the new technique was the use of the synthetic chemical polyvinyl alcohol instead of blood serum albumin.

The researchers found that because of the large numbers of stem cells generated by the technique, mice could successfully be given stem cell therapy without conditioning. It was also used to cure immunodeficient animals.

Dr Alasdair Rankin, from Bloodwise, said: “Stem cell transplants can offer the best chance of a long-term cure for some people with blood cancer, but not everyone will be able to have a transplant and many patients cannot tolerate the gruelling side-effects connected to treatment.

“This incredibly important research opens up the possibility that this lifeline could be available to more people in the future.”

Dr Adam Wilkinson from Stanford, lead author on the study, said: “These findings have important implications for the future treatment of a number of blood diseases including blood cancers.

“I hope that we can one day spare patients from the toxic conditioning treatments that are currently needed for stem cell transplantation.”

The researchers now plan to optimise the technique for human blood stem cells.

Source: Wilkinson, A.C., Ishida, R., Kikuchi, M., Sudo, K., Morita, M., Crisostomo, R.V., Yamamoto, R., Loh, K.M., Nakamura, Y., Watanabe, M, Nakauchi, H., Yamazaki, S. (2019) “Long-term ex vivo haematopoietic-stem-cell expansion allows nonconditioned transplantation”, Nature, available from doi: 10.1038/s41586-019-1244-x


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