Printed spots for growing liver stem cells

[Contributed by Holly Ober, Biomedical Engineering]

Transplanted liver cells could repair livers damaged by toxins or infections. Stem cells hold tremendous promise for liver-related therapies because they can grow in a Petri dish to become any cell type, including liver cells. However, scientists have yet to identify the best reagents to add into the Petri dish to push stem cells to become liver cells. An expensive and time-consuming process of trial and error guides the discovery of reagents and signals for stem cell differentiation. Now, a team of biomedical engineers led by Prof. Alexander Revzin at UC Davis has found a way to grow liver cells from stem cells more cheaply and effectively than current methods.

Final mouse genome published

The most complete version to date of the mouse genome was published yesterday in the journal PLoS Biology. “Build 36,” from the C57 inbred strain of black mice, has 175,000 fewer gaps, 139 megabytes of new sequences and realigns genes that were incorrectly described in an earlier version of the mouse genome.

The new genome map predicts just over 20,000 protein-coding genes in the mouse. About 75 percent of these are 1:1 “orthologs” or counterparts of human genes. The authors note that about 5,000 of these genes can be studied in “knockout” mice.

Human stem cells form new blood vessels in mice

Therapy restores blood flow in mice, forms the basis for upcoming clinical trials in humans

(SACRAMENTO, Calif.) — Researchers have successfully induced the formation of new blood vessels in mice with reduced blood flow (ischemia) to their limbs using adult human stem cells. The breakthrough treatment resulted in fully functioning limbs that showed both increased blood flow to previously damaged areas and an increase in the number of blood vessels. The study, published in this week’s print edition of the journal Blood, paves the way for the stem cell-based treatment of peripheral arterial disease (PAD) in humans, a painful condition common in diabetic patients that can lead to amputation.

Public Forum on Stem Cell Treatments is May 12

Four UC Davis stem cell experts will give brief presentations on stem cell research followed by question-and-answer sessions during a community forum on Tuesday, May 12 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the UC Davis Cancer Center auditorium, 4501 X Street, in Sacramento.

The event, which is free and open to the public, is the first in a series of three discussions entitled “Stem Cell Dialogues,” which offer opportunities for the public to learn about the stem cell therapies UC Davis is developing to potentially treat and cure a wide array of disease and injury. With limited seating, those interested in attending this first session should reserve seats by contacting Michele Steiner at michele.steiner@ucdmc.ucdavis.edu or calling her at 916-734-9116.

Grant for stem cell researcher

Paul Knoepfler, an assistant professor of cell biology and human anatomy at the UC Davis School of Medicine, has been awarded a grant of $2 million over five years to support his work on how embryonic stem cells are programmed.

Embryonic stem cells and induced pluripotent stem cells are promising for medical purposes because they can develop into a wide range of tissues. But they can also give rise to tumors in mice. Knoepfler is studying the genetic mechanisms that control whether a stem cell develops properly, or forms a tumor.

$20 million stem cell grant

UC Davis has been awarded a $20 million grant from the California Institute of Regenerative Medicine, the state’s stem cell research agency, towards renovating an existing building to house the rapidly growing stem cell research program.

The building will eventually have 100,000 square feet of space. It will include research labs and support facilities, as well as a “Good Manufacturing Practice” (GMP) facility for the development of FDA-approved cellular therapies.

Stem cell therapy for animals

LiveScience.com reports on a San Diego company offering a stem cell therapy to treat arthritis, tendon and ligament problems in dogs. A veterinarian removes some fat from the dog and ships it to the company, which extracts adult stem cells from the fatty tissue and returns them in a ready-to-use syringe. Presumably, the idea is that these are stem cells that can fairly readily turn into connective tissue and repair damage.

“We’ve seen stem cell therapy help dogs whose pain was previously so severe that they struggled to stand, jump into cars, chase balls or run up and down stairs,” said Robert Harman, DVM, and founder of Vet-Stem.

Leukemia scientist receives stem cell grant

UC Davis stem cell scientist Chong-xian Pan has received a new faculty award from the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine. The award will provide Pan with $2.4 million over five years for salary and research support.

Pan, who specializes in cancer and blood diseases, is both a physician and a Ph.D. scientist. His current research is focused on stem cell approaches that could be used to help cancer patients overcome leukemia.

The award was among $54 million in grants announced by CIRM December 12.

UC Davis to host NIH mouse bank

The National Institutes of Health has awarded a $4.8 million grant to UC Davis to set up a repository for the Knockout Mouse Project (KOMP). The repository will store, archive and make available to researchers up to 10,000 types of mice created through the project.

Knockout mice are mice in which a specific gene has been “knocked out” or deleted. The NIH is engaged in a program to create a specific knockout mouse for every gene in the mouse genome. Such mice have become an invaluable tool for medical research.

Stem cell researchers, Thermogenesis ink deal

ThermoGenesis Corp. and the UC Davis Stem Cell Program have are to collaborate to develop stem cell therapies, the Sacramento Business Journal reports.

Researchers at UC Davis, led by Dr. Jan Nolta and Gerhard Bauer, will use ThermoGenesis blood processing systems to develop treatments for artery disease, myocardial infarction and skin wounds. ThermoGenesis will have the first option to license any resulting intellectual property.

Thermogenesis, which is based in Rancho Cordova, makes equipment for collecting, storing and archiving stem cells from blood, particularly umbilical cord blood. As part of the agreement, the company will supply equipment to UC Davis for separating and storing stem cells.