MAY 11, 2018 6:39 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
JAN 18, 2021
Immunology
Arthritis Drug Approved for Critically Ill COVID Patients
JAN 18, 2021
Arthritis Drug Approved for Critically Ill COVID Patients
Critically ill COVID patients in the U.K. may receive an arthritis drug after a study showed that treatment lowered mort ...
FEB 09, 2021
Immunology
Putting the Kibosh on HIV's Stealth Tactics
FEB 09, 2021
Putting the Kibosh on HIV's Stealth Tactics
The human immunodeficiency virus or HIV is always one step of the immune system, a tactic that makes it impossible to co ...
MAR 22, 2021
Immunology
Gene Mutation Keeps Tumors "Cold"
MAR 22, 2021
Gene Mutation Keeps Tumors "Cold"
Immunologists have identified a mechanism through which an oncogene mutation shields pancreatic tumors from immune cells ...
APR 13, 2021
Immunology
Food-borne Fungus Impedes Gut Healing
APR 13, 2021
Food-borne Fungus Impedes Gut Healing
In a recent study, researchers discovered that a fungus present in cheese, processed meats, beer, and other fermented fo ...
APR 16, 2021
Microbiology
A New Kind of COVID-19 Vaccine
APR 16, 2021
A New Kind of COVID-19 Vaccine
The current COVID-19 vaccines by Pfizer/BioNTech and Modern are based on messenger RNA, which cells use to make proteins ...
APR 27, 2021
Immunology
Breakthrough Malaria Vaccine Is a Ray of Hope
APR 27, 2021
Breakthrough Malaria Vaccine Is a Ray of Hope
University of Oxford scientists have developed a vaccine against malaria, which they describe as having “unprecede ...
Loading Comments...