Stem Cell News Briefs: NYSCF, Sleep & Transplants, NFL legends, & More

What’s been up the past week in the stem cell world?

The Wall Street Journal reports that the New York Stem Cell Foundation (NYSCF) has signed a 20-year lease on a much larger space, in fact twice the current size, in Manhattan. That would seem to be a great sign of things to come for NYSCF, a fantastic organization led by the wonderful Susan Solomon (pictured in her TED talk)Susan Solomon, who was quoted that the NYSCF team is growing as well.

Here’s how we’re really probably make genetically modified people if we decide to, writes one of my favorite science writers, Antonio Regalado: CRISPR’ing sperm stem cells.

A new Stem Cell Reports paper, Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells to Model Human Fibrodysplasia Ossificans Progressiva, seems interesting.

Another new paper, this one in Cell Stem Cell, shows the Gtl2 gene “protects adult hematopoietic stem cells by restricting metabolic activity in the cells’ mitochondria” according to a PR.

More sleep for donors means more stem cells for recipients. Also see my previous piece on natural boosts stem cells for stem cells.

Did Bar Starr, who received multiple stem cell treatments at clinics, make a triumphant return to Lambeau Field as was hoped this weekend? It seems so.

Live Blogging NAS Human Gene Editing Summit: #GeneEditSummit

Jennifer Doudna

Jennifer Doudna at a NAS planning meeting.

The National Academy of Sciences (NAS)  summit on Human Gene Editing will begin in a few days on December 1 in Washington, D.C. This summit is in part the extension of discussions that started at a more informal meeting on CRISPR earlier this year in Napa organized by Jennifer Doudna and colleagues.

The NAS meeting will bring together scientists, ethicists, and policymakers from around the world and in particular from the US, the UK, and China. These three countries are presently the hotbeds of human genetic modification research, both academically and commercially.

I’m planning to be there live blogging the meeting with posts right here on this blog to give a sense of what is going on, the mood at the meeting, and more including pictures. Hopefully I can do some quick interviews with speakers at the meeting as well.

Many questions surround this topic and I’m curious how the meeting will tackle them. Will a consensus for a moratorium on clinical use of CRISPR on humans be reached? How much participation by the public will occur? What kind of range of opinions will be presented?

You can follow the meeting on Twitter with the #GeneEditSummit hash tag.

Science on Thanksgiving & recommended reading

Turkey Scientist

Picture from Pinterest

I’m thankful for a whole bunch of things on Thanksgiving including family, but here I wanted to talk specifically about why we should be thankful for science.

At this moment in history it is plainly evident how greatly past science has helped the world and at the same time how intensely the world needs science right now as well as looking to the immediate future. When reality is only an occasional stop on the crazy path of many public figures including, for instance, certain American politicians, science is a bedrock foundation for justice and democracy.

I’m thankful for science for these reasons and many others. I love science and feel fortunate to be a scientist.

Here’s some recommended science reading on Thanksgiving.

Poll finds near equal split on question: would you have a designer baby?

A few weeks back I started a poll focusing on whether people would have a designer baby if they could.Poll Designer Baby

With nearly 200 responses so far, the results are very mixed (see image).

One conclusion from this I think is that we need more information on possible risks versus benefits. Another element here is that the poll, as one commenter pointed out, did not divide between health-related and enhancement motivations behind having the designer baby. I may do a future poll including that divide.

Looking at the votes geographically, interestingly respondents in the UK were shifted more toward “Yes” than other countries such as the US.

A reminder that Internet polls are non-scientific.

Stem cells in space with NASA: microgravity reduces regenerative potential

NASA researchers have been interested in the effects of space travel and in particular microgravity (μg; not to be confused in this context with the common abbreviation for micrograms) on stem cells. For instance, see the past piece “Stem Cells Take Wild Ride in Space Capsule”.

In a new NASA study led by Dr. Eduardo A.C. Almeida, the researchers found that μg reduced the regenerative capacity of mouse embryonic stem cells (mESC).

Stem cells space Figure 5

The mESC taken to space exhibited altered behavior including reduced differentiation into a variety of specialized cell types (see Figure 5 from the paper that summarizes the changes).

Normally mESC are pluripotent, meaning that they can be stimulated to form any murine cell type. The mESC that travelled into space, in contrast, did not differentiate normally and failed to turn on specific differentiation markers. Instead they were shifted more toward an undifferentiated phenotype even when signaled to differentiate.

“In this study, we found that spaceflight in μg promoted the maintenance of EB stem cell gene expression and post-μg reloading differentiation potential, defined as “stemness”, and inhibited the appearance of differentiation markers for multiple tissue lineages. These findings may have important implications for the maintenance of tissue regenerative health in both astronauts during short and long-duration spaceflight in μg conditions, and for humans on earth.”

The μg mESC were, however, able to form embryoid bodies (EBs), the early stage of mESC differentiation, apparently normally and did not exhibit reduced survival during differentiation.

There may be subtle differences in other aspects of cell biology of μg mESC such as cell cycling, cell metabolism and signaling. For these studies, the μg mESC were compared to so-called “ground control” mESC.

These studies suggest that astronauts in space for extended periods of time may exhibit health changes associated with alterations in their stem cell biology. It will be interesting to see follow up work including in particular on human embryonic stem cells (hESC) and induced pluripotent stem cells (IPSC), which seem like logical next steps.

The study published in the journal Stem Cells and Development, is entitled:  Microgravity Reduces the Differentiation and Regenerative Potential of Embryonic Stem Cells. The authors included in order the following: Elizabeth A. BlaberHayley Finkelstein, Natalya Dvorochkin, Kevin Y. Sato, Rukhsana YousufBrendan P. BurnsRuth K. Globus, and Eduardo A.C. Almeida.