MAY 11, 2018 06:39 AM PDT

Successful Neural Stem Cell Therapy Without Immunosuppression

WRITTEN BY: Kara Marker

Neural stem cells designed to be identical to the host they were derived from are the newest hope for scientists in transplantation medicine, specifically for restoring tissues damaged by a spinal cord injury. From the University of California - San Diego, scientists show how they successfully transplanted such cells into pigs, which are similar to humans in the context of the central nervous system.

A population of induced pluripotent stem cell-derived neurons. Credit: UC San Diego Health

Designing custom neural stem cells from genetically different donors can be difficult. Like any transplantation, inserting foreign cells carries a risk of the host immune system attacking the cells, causing a system-wide inflammatory response.

Giving a transplant patient immunosuppressive drugs prior to the transplantation may reduce the risk of tissue rejection, but the prescription also delivers all the risks that come with suppressing the immune system: leaving the body vulnerable to infections from bacteria, viruses, and parasites.

In their new study, UCSD scientists successfully designed neural precursor cells from induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs). Senior author Martin Marsala, MD, lauds human iPSCs as the “ultimate source of cells to be used in future clinical trials for treatment of spinal cord and central nervous system injuries in a syngeneic or allogeneic setting.”

Researchers implanted the neural cells into the spinal cords of genetically identical adult pigs without applying any immunosuppressive drugs, and they observed long-term, cancer-free survival. Not only did the cells survive, but they also differentiated into neurons and supporting glial cells needed to rebuild damaged tissue.

Marsala and the others saw similar positive results in adult pigs with different genetic backgrounds. These pigs also had chronic spinal cord injuries, unlike the genetically identical pigs who were not injured.

"Using RNA sequencing and innovative bioinformatic methods to deconvolute the RNA's species-of-origin, the research team demonstrated that pig iPSC-derived neural precursors safely acquire the genetic characteristics of mature CNS tissue even after transplantation into rat brains,” explained co-author Samuel Pfaff, PhD.

"We took skin cells from an adult pig, an animal species with strong similarities to humans in spinal cord and central nervous system anatomy and function, reprogrammed them back to stem cells, then induced them to become neural precursor cells (NPCs), destined to become nerve cells,” Marsala explained. “Because they are syngeneic - genetically identical with the cell-graft recipient pig - they are immunologically compatible. They grow and differentiate with no immunosuppression required."

The present study was published in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

Source: University of California - San Diego

About the Author
  • I am a scientific journalist and enthusiast, especially in the realm of biomedicine. I am passionate about conveying the truth in scientific phenomena and subsequently improving health and public awareness. Sometimes scientific research needs a translator to effectively communicate the scientific jargon present in significant findings. I plan to be that translating communicator, and I hope to decrease the spread of misrepresented scientific phenomena! Check out my science blog: ScienceKara.com.
You May Also Like
SEP 20, 2019
Health & Medicine
SEP 20, 2019
Bartonella henselae Infection Implicated in Pediatric Acute-Onset Neuropsychiatric Syndrome
Pediatric acute-onset neuropsychiatric syndrome (PANS) is a term used to describe every cause of acute-onset of obsessive-compulsive disorder including str...
SEP 20, 2019
Microbiology
SEP 20, 2019
How a Parasitic Amoeba Evades the Immune System
A parasitic amoeba that causes a gut disease can nibble on host cells and use their proteins. (Image courtesy UC Davis/Hannah Miller)...
SEP 20, 2019
Plants & Animals
SEP 20, 2019
African Swine Fever a Real Concern as Novel Vaccine Emerges
If you didn’t already know, African swine fever (ASF) is currently ravaging large sums of pigs in the Eastern hemisphere. Wild boars tend to pick up...
SEP 20, 2019
Microbiology
SEP 20, 2019
Altering the Gut Microbiome Relieves Alzheimer's Symptoms in Mice
A link between the gut microbiome and Alzheimer's disease may help researchers treat the disease....
SEP 20, 2019
Drug Discovery & Development
SEP 20, 2019
Novel Treatments for Auto-immune Disorders
A recent research study examined a library of almost 300,000 small molecules to search for a molecule that may be a potential target for the human GMP-AMP ...
SEP 20, 2019
Health & Medicine
SEP 20, 2019
Blood-Brain Barrier Impairment and Its Role in Alzheimer's Disease
In healthy people, the blood-brain barrier (BBB), which is fromed by brain endothelial cells, strictly controls the entrance of harmful materials into...
Loading Comments...