Stem Cell Banks Envisioned for Regenerative Medicine

Stem cell banks could serve as a valuable resource for emerging treatments in the field of regenerative medicine, though challenges remain to making them a reality, according to a panel of international experts who gathered at UCSF for a stem cell conference last month.

Funding for the development of stem cell lines for research has long been subject to debate, especially before President Barack Obama lifted a Bush-era ban on federal funding in 2009, but now scientists are discussing how to best meet the anticipated need for stem cells for medicine as well as research.

Shinya Yamanaka, MD, PhD

Stem cell treatments developed from adult cells rather than from embryonic tissue are expected to enter clinical trials for macular degeneration in Japan next year, and early successes in such trials aimed at replacing damaged tissues would be expected to drive demand for such stem cells upward. Worldwide, stem cell scientists in academia, government and the private sector are gauging strategies for moving forward with stem cell banks to meet expected demand.

So far, countries have been taking different paths toward acquiring these resources, panelists said at an Oct. 25 discussion at the International Society for Stem Cell Research conference held at the UCSF Mission Bay campus.

Panelists for the discussion, titled Challenges and Opportunities in Cellular Reprogramming, included Shinya Yamanaka, MD, PhD, a UCSF professor of anatomy senior investigator with the UCSF-affiliated Gladstone Institutes who won the 2012 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine for discoveries that are the groundwork for many of todays regenerative medicine strategies.

Yamanaka, who is also director of the Center for iPS Cell Research and Application at Kyoto University, has advocated stem cell banking for medicine in his native Japan, where the government recently made a commitment to begin stem cell banking.

Yamanaka pioneered the use of induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells, which are created when individuals provide skin cells or other easily obtained cells that scientists then reprogram in the lab to become virtually any cell type. One of primary advantages to iPS cells is that their use overcomes ethical objections to the use of embryonic stem cells, which are developed from leftover embryos obtained from in vitro fertilization clinics.

Induced pluripotent stem cellsknown as iPS cells, and which act very much like embryonic stem cellsare here growing into heart cells (blue) and nerve cells (green). Photo by Gladstone Institutes/Chris Goodfellow

Because iPS cells can be created from the cells of individuals afflicted with specific diseases, they can be used to develop new disease models to learn more about how diseases arise and how they might be treated. But in addition, panelists emphasized, iPS cells can be reprogrammed to become long-lived stem cells specialized for particular organs and tissues and play a role in treatments now being developed for regenerative medicine.

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Stem Cell Banks Envisioned for Regenerative Medicine

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