Wednesday, 9 January 2013

New scaffold allows more efficient mass production of stem cells

Scientists at the University of Edinburgh, announced today the creation of a new scaffold that supports the growth and development of human embryonic stem cells (hESCs). According to them, the newly discovered scaffold is perfect for research, drug screening programmes, clinical applications and anything else that requires the mass production of stem cells. The study, is available in the Nature Communications on-line journal.

The new scaffold is mainly composed by water-based gels which act as a support for the growing stem cells. According to the researchers, what is unique about this scaffold is that it offers a very easy stem cell separation method. Once a sufficient number of them has been grown, the only thing required is to cool down the gel. Then the stem cells simply "drop off". 

Human Embryonic Stem Cells

They claim that their separation approach is superior and less damaging to any of the currently available separation techniques. They also say that their scaffold has the capacity to allow stem cell production on a large scale both efficiently and safely, avoiding any risks of contamination. 

According the study, the researchers tested hundreds of different compounds before concluding to the one they finally used. They have also identified three potential candidates as well.

Dr Paul de Sousa, developmental and reproductive biologist and one of the key researchers, said: 

"This development could greatly enhance automated production of embryonic stem cells, which would improve the efficiency and reduce the cost of stem cell manufacturing. We are also looking into whether this work could help develop pluripotent stem cells induced from adult cells."

The researchers hope that their technology will allow efficient and contamination risk-free, mass production of stem cells. They expect  their technology to benefit research and drug screening programmes that require large numbers of stem cells, like the ones on Parkinson's and Huntington's.

The scaffold is licensed by the Ilika company.

Zhang, R., Mjoseng, H., Hoeve, M., Bauer, N., Pells, S., Besseling, R., Velugotla, S., Tourniaire, G., Kishen, R., Tsenkina, Y., Armit, C., Duffy, C., Helfen, M., Edenhofer, F., de Sousa, P., & Bradley, M. (2013). A thermoresponsive and chemically defined hydrogel for long-term culture of human embryonic stem cells Nature Communications, 4 DOI: 10.1038/ncomms2341

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