Listen to Leigh Turner’s interview on Science Friday on our stem cell clinic paper

Leigh TurnerYou can listen to my co-author Leigh Turner’s interview on Science Friday here about our Cell Stem Cell paper on the stem cell clinic industry in the U.S. Start listening around the 8:30 mark.

It’s great that this paper has so strongly raised awareness about the booming stem cell clinic industry in America as well as the urgent need for much more open and active discussion of the serious issues that this reality raises on a number of levels.

You can follow Leigh on Twitter here.

Also, you can read about Leigh’s excellent presentation about stem cell clinics that he gave at ISSCR Vancouver here.

Big stem cell news: dynamic duo of all-chemical direct reprogramming reports

There’s some big, positive news on the stem cell front today.

Two new innovative papers both by teams led by Sheng Ding of Gladstone Institutes with UCSF report all-chemical direct reprogramming of human somatic cells. Ding’s team took skin cells and by exposing them to cocktails of small molecules was able to turn them directly into precursors for heart muscle and neural cells. The two direct reprogramming papers were published in Science here and in Cell Stem Cell hereThe former paper is Cao, et al. and the latter is Zhang, et al. These reports together are a very big deal.

Neurons created from ciNSC

Neurons made from chemically-induced neural precursors. Credit: Mingliang Zhang, Gladstone Institutes

It’s been almost a decade since Shinya Yamanaka first reported the creation of mouse induced pluripotent stem cells (IPSC) using a cocktail of four factors and only one year later, he and others reported the creation of human IPSC.

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Top 10 stem cell websites

top ten listIf you are a true stem cell aficionado, what are the top 10 websites for you to bookmark and follow on a daily or weekly basis? I wanted to generate a list.

So what are my criteria for top 10 stem cell/regenerative medicine websites?

It’s got to be regularly updated. It has to be influential. It has to have broad impact including ideally both science and policy. It has to go beyond facts to include opinions and ideas.

As important as they may be, relatively static websites like the stem cells pages on Mayo Clinic and the NIH don’t have the timeliness and dynamic nature that I want.

So here are the websites in my top 10 in alphabetical order.

*I included this blog in there so hopefully that wasn’t an over the top thing to do.

Other recommended stem cell sites (also check out blog roll in the right tool bar of this website)

  • The Node is great even if it is not entirely stem cell specific.
  • The NYSCF website is very useful and cool.
  • Although it didn’t make my Top 10 since its content is only changed relatively infrequently (which may change), I recommend checking out the new version of ISSCR’s A Closer Look at Stem Cells.
  • A newer site is the blog by msemporda.
  • The Cell Culture Dish is not stem cell specific, but has a lot of good content.

What are your favorite stem cell websites? What would be your top 10? Did I miss any deserving ones?

Can Hearts Repair Themselves Via Stem Cells: More on Hot Topic

Can hearts repair themselves via stem cell-like mechanisms?

Sometimes what we scientists all know to be true turns out later on to be wrong and there are clear instances of this in the stem cell field.

For example for decades the dogma was that the adult mammalian brain did not have stem cells, but now everyone knows that the adult brain does have stem cells. What we perceive as factual can change over time.

Yamanaka disproved the entrenched notion that differentiated cells were permanently locked into that differentiated state with his revolutionary findings on induced pluripotent stem cells.

Today the cardiac stem cell field finds itself at an interesting crossroads with a hot, controversial question:

Can damaged heart muscle repair itself via stem cells?

heart stem cells

Some say “yes” there are cardiac stem cells and that they can mediate repair. Others feel just as strongly that there are not such cells.

I recently asked cardiac stem cell expert, Deepak Srivastava for his thoughts on this in a previous post and found his answer compelling.

My sense is that the view that there are some heart stem cells, but perhaps not enough to mediate significant repair predominates today. That’s my current view too.

You can see the diversity of papers in PubMed with “Heart Regeneration” or “Cardiac Regeneration” or “Cardiac stem cells” in their titles.

It seems that a lot more people believe that there are a small population of cardiac stem-like cells (perhaps mobilized and/or reprogrammed by injury) than support the bolder notion that these cells can mediate clinically significant endogenous repair of the heart.

One of the biggest advocates of endogenous cardiac stem cells and repair, Piero Anversa of Harvard and Brigham and Women’s Hospital, has become one of the most controversial as well. His papers have come under fire and one has been retracted. Anversa is the subject of a Harvard investigation and is suing Harvard for how it has conducted the investigation and other matters related to his work.

Could his work still be right that hearts can indeed repair themselves? At this time I am very skeptical.

Still there are glimpses of interesting stem cell activity in the mammalian heart.

A November 2014 Cell Stem Cell paper from the lab of Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte, entitled “In Vivo Activation of a Conserved MicroRNA Program Induces Mammalian Heart Regeneration”, argues for endogenous mammalian heart regeneration in part via dedifferentiation of cells into stem-like cells. You can take a look at its graphical abstract above.

Even if the endogenous stem cell-like activity in the heart is not enough usually to mediate clinically significant repair, the good news is that by deciphering the molecular basis of this activity the field could still open the door to powerful new treatments for heart disease. For instance, if the heart naturally replaces 1 in 200 cells per year, perhaps cardiac researchers can find a way to boost that by an order of magnitude with a drug and have a meaningful impact for patients.

5 new cool stem cell papers worth a look for weekend reading

Some diverse new stem cell papers worth a peek this weekend?

Direct reprogramming hits crest: Generation of Multipotent Induced Neural Crest by Direct Reprogramming of Human Postnatal Fibroblasts with a Single Transcription Factor, Cell Stem Cell 

Hormone receptors in prostate cancer cells versus stem cells: Concise Review: Androgen Receptor Differential Roles in Stem/Progenitor Cells Including Prostate, Embryonic, Stromal, and Hematopoietic LineagesStem Cells

Remember Me-thylation: Dynamic and static maintenance of epigenetic memory in pluripotent and somatic cells, Nature

A Variant Path to Pluripotency: Histone Variant H2A.X Deposition Pattern Serves as a Functional Epigenetic Mark for Distinguishing the Developmental Potentials of iPSCs, Cell Stem Cell

Making targeted human organs from PSCs in animals. Targeted Organ Generation Using Mixl1-Inducible Mouse Pluripotent Stem Cells in Blastocyst Complementation, Stem Cells & Development