Morizane et al. (2013) show that donor-matched differentiated derivatives of induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC) do not cause an immune response after transplantation, whereas transplantation of HLA-mismatched iPSC derivatives to the same site clearly does. The importance of these results is discussed in this commentary as we assess how best to move forward with iPSC-based cell therapy.
The US has had a very successful model for facilitating the translation of a basic discovery to a commercial application. The success of the model has hinged on providing clarity on ownership of a discovery, facilitating the licensing process, providing adequate incentive to the inventors, and developing a self-sustaining model for reinvestment. In recent years, technological, political, and regulatory changes have put strains on this model and in some cases have hindered progress rather than facilitated it. This is particularly true for the nascent field of regenerative medicine. To illustrate this, I will describe the contributing practices of several different entities, including universities, repositories, patent trolls, and service providers. It is my hope that the scientific community will be motivated to coordinate efforts against these obstacles to translation.
The remarkable speed with which the field of stem cell biology has evolved is unprecedented and has already changed the way we do science. In this series of articles we have invited leading experts to present their efforts in moving from the bench to the bedside, with the hope that we can learn from the experiences of the pioneers.
Human embryonic stem cell (hESC)-derived dopaminergic (DA) neurons hold potential for treating Parkinson’s disease (PD) through cell replacement therapy. Generation of DA neurons from hESCs has been achieved by co-culture with the stromal cell line PA6, a source of stromal cell-derived inducing activity (SDIA). However, the factor(s) produced by stromal cells that constitute SDIA are largely undefined. We previously reported that medium conditioned by PA6 cells can generate functional DA neurons from NTera2 human embryonal carcinoma stem cells. Here we show that PA6-conditioned medium can induce DA neuronal differentiation in both NTera2 cells and the hESC I6 cell line. To identify the factor(s) responsible for SDIA, we used large-scale microarray analysis of gene expression combined with mass spectrometric analysis of PA6-conditioned medium (CM). The candidate factors, hepatocyte growth factor (HGF), stromal cell-derived factor-1 α (SDF1α), secreted frizzled-related protein 1 (sFRP1), and vascular endothelial growth factor D (VEGFD) were identified and their concentrations in PA6 CM were established by immunoaffinity capillary electrophoresis. Upon addition of SDF1α, sFRP1 and VEGFD to the culture medium we observed an increase in the number of cells expressing tyrosine hydroxylase (a marker for DA neurons) and beta-III tubulin (a marker for immature neurons) in both the NTera2 and I6 cell lines. These results indicate that SDF1α, sFRP1 and VEGFD are major components of SDIA, and suggest the potential use of these defined factors to elicit DA differentiation of pluripotent human stem cells for therapeutic intervention in PD.
dopaminergic neurons; neuronal differentiation; stromal cell derived inducing activity; embryonic stem cells
Prospective donation of tissue specimens for induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) research requires an approach to informed consent that is constructed for this context. Approaches to informed consent have been variable in ways that threaten the simultaneous goals of protecting donors and safeguarding future research and translation, and investigators are seeking guidance. This analysis addresses this need by providing concrete recommendations for informed consent that balance the goals of iPSC and regenerative medicine researchers with the interests of individual research participants.
Induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) have elicited excitement in both the scientific and ethics communities for their potential to advance basic and translational research. They have been hailed as an alternative to derivation from embryos that provides a virtually unlimited source of pluripotent stem cells for research and therapeutic applications. However, research with iPSCs is ethically complex, uniquely encompassing the concerns associated with genomics, immortalized cell lines, transplantation, human reproduction, and biobanking. Prospective donation of tissue specimens for iPSC research thus requires an approach to informed consent that is constructed for this context. Even in the nascent stages of this field, approaches to informed consent have been variable in ways that threaten the simultaneous goals of protecting donors and safeguarding future research and translation, and investigators are seeking guidance. We address this need by providing concrete recommendations for informed consent that balance the perspectives of a variety of stakeholders. Our work combines analysis of consent form language collected from investigators worldwide with a conceptual balancing of normative ethical concerns, policy precedents, and scientific realities. Our framework asks people to consent prospectively to a broad umbrella of foreseeable research, including future therapeutic applications, with recontact possible in limited circumstances. We argue that the long-term goals of regenerative medicine, interest in sharing iPSC lines, and uncertain landscape of future research all would be served by a framework of ongoing communication with donors. Our approach balances the goals of iPSC and regenerative medicine researchers with the interests of individual research participants.
Clinical translation; Ethics; iPS; Induced pluripotent stem cells
Recent advances in stem cell technology have enabled large scale production of human cells such as cardiomyocytes, hepatocytes and neurons for evaluation of pharmacological effect and toxicity of drug candidates. The assessment of compound efficacy and toxicity using human cells should lower the high clinical attrition rates of drug candidates by reducing the impact of species differences on drug efficacy and toxicity from animal studies. Methyl-β-cyclodextrin (MBCD) has shown to reduce lysosomal cholesterol accumulation in skin fibroblasts derived from patients with Niemann Pick type C disease and in the NPC1−/− mouse model. However, the compound has never been tested in human differentiated neurons. We have determined the cholesterol reduction effect of MBCD in neurons differentiated from human neural stem cells and commercially available astrocytes. The use of NSCs for producing differentiated neurons in large quantities can significantly reduce the production time and enhance the reproducibility of screening results. The EC50 values of MBCD on cholesterol reduction in human neurons and astrocytes were 66.9 and 110.7 µM, respectively. The results indicate that human neurons differentiated from the NSCs and human astrocytes are useful tools for evaluating pharmacological activity and toxicity of drug candidates to predict their clinical efficacy.
induced pluripotent stem cells; neural stem cells; human neurons; astrocytes; skin fibroblasts; methyl-β-cyclodextrin
The neural crest (NC) is a transient, multipotent, migratory cell population unique to vertebrates that gives rise to diverse cell lineages. Much of our knowledge of NC development comes from studies of organisms such as chicken and zebrafish because human NC is difficult to obtain because of its transient nature and the limited availability of human fetal cells. Here we examined the process of NC induction from human pluripotent stem cells, including human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) and induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs). We showed that NC cells could be efficiently induced from hESCs by a combination of growth factors in medium conditioned on stromal cells and that NC stem cells (NCSCs) could be purified by p75 using fluorescence-activated cell sorting (FACS). FACS-isolated NCSCs could be propagated in vitro in five passages and cryopreserved while maintaining NCSC identity characterized by the expression of a panel of NC markers such as p75, Sox9, Sox10, CD44, and HNK1. In vitro-expanded NCSCs were able to differentiate into neurons and glia (Schwann cells) of the peripheral nervous system, as well as mesenchymal derivatives. hESC-derived NCSCs appeared to behave similarly to endogenous embryonic NC cells when injected in chicken embryos. Using a defined medium, we were able to generate and propagate a nearly pure population of Schwann cells that uniformly expressed glial fibrillary acidic protein, S100, and p75. Schwann cells generated by our protocol myelinated rat dorsal root ganglia neurons in vitro. To our knowledge, this is the first report on myelination by hESC- or iPSC-derived Schwann cells.
Neural crest; Human embryonic stem cells; Differentiation; Schwann cells; Peripheral neuron
Schwann cells (SCs) play an important role in the pathogenesis of peripheral nerve diseases and represent a potential target for development of therapies. However, use of primary human SCs (hSCs) for in vitro models is limited because these cells are difficult to prepare and maintain in high yield and purity under common cell culture conditions. To circumvent this obstacle, we immortalized primary human fetal SCs using the SV40 large T-antigen and human telomerase reverse transcriptase expression vectors. After cloning, selection, and purification, we evaluated several immortalized SC lines for their ability to express extracellular matrix (ECM) molecules and myelinate embryonic rat sensory axons. In addition, we established a gene expression profile and explored their sensitivity to oxidative stress in a simple in vitro assay. Immortalized hSC clones expressed common glial markers and a broad variety of growth factors, receptors, and ECM molecules as determined by immunocytochemistry, microarray, and quantitative reverse transcription–polymerase chain reaction. In neuron-SC co-cultures, these cells were able to myelinate rat dorsal root ganglia neurons, although their effectiveness was lower in comparison to primary rat SCs. In toxicity assays, immortalized hSCs remain susceptible to oxidative stress induced by H2O2. This study shows that, using specific immortalization techniques, it is possible to establish hSC lines that retain characteristics of typical primary hSCs. These cells are particularly useful for drug screening and studies aimed at disease mechanisms involving SCs.
Although astrocytes are involved in the production of an inhibitory glial scar following injury, they are also capable of providing neuroprotection and supporting axonal growth. There is growing appreciation for a diverse and dynamic population of astrocytes, specified by a variety of glial precursors, whose function is regulated regionally and temporally. Consequently, the therapeutic application of glial precursors and astrocytes by effective transplantation protocols requires a better understanding of their phenotypic and functional properties and effective protocols for their preparation. We present a systematic analysis of astrocyte differentiation using multiple preparations of glial-restricted precursors (GRP), evaluating their morphological and phenotypic properties following treatment with fetal bovine serum (FBS), bone morphogenetic protein 4 (BMP-4), or ciliary neurotrophic factor (CNTF) in comparison to controls treated with basic fibroblast growth factor (bFGF), which maintains undifferentiated GRP. We found that treatments with FBS or BMP-4 generated similar profiles of highly differentiated astrocytes that were A2B5−/GFAP+. Treatment with FBS generated the most mature astrocytes, with a distinct and nearhomogeneous morphology of fibroblast-like flat cells, whereas BMP-4 derived astrocytes had a stellate, but heterogeneous morphology. Treatment with CNTF induced differentiation of GRP to an intermediate state of GFAP+ cells that maintained immature markers and had relatively long processes. Furthermore, astrocytes generated by BMP-4 or CNTF showed considerable experimental plasticity, and their morphology and phenotypes could be reversed with complementary treatments along a wide range of mature-immature states. Importantly, when GRP or GRP treated with BMP-4 or CNTF were transplanted acutely into a dorsal column lesion of the spinal cord, cells from all 3 groups survived and generated permissive astrocytes that supported axon growth and regeneration of host sensory axons into, but not out of the lesion. Our study underscores the dynamic nature of astrocytes prepared from GRP and their permissive properties, and suggest that future therapeutic applications in restoring connectivity following CNS injury are likely to require a combination of treatments.
bone morphogenetic protein (BMP); ciliary neurotrophic factor (CNTF); astrocyte differentiation; astrocyte transplantation; spinal cord injury; axon regeneration
The discovery of the ability to induce somatic cells to a pluripotent state through the overexpression of specific transcription factors has the potential to transform the ways in which pharmaceutical agents and cellular transplantation therapies are developed. Proper utilization of the technology to generate induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) requires that researchers select the appropriate reprogramming method for generating iPSCs so that the resulting iPSCs can be transitioned towards clinical applications effectively. This article reviews all of the currently available reprogramming techniques with a focus on critiquing them on the basis of their utility in translational medicine.
INDUCED PLURIPOTENT STEM CELLS; REPROGRAMMING METHODS; TRANSLATIONAL MEDICINE
Lineage reporters of human embryonic stem cell (hESC) lines are useful for differentiation studies and drug screening. Previously, we created reporter lines driven by an elongation factor 1 alpha (EF1α) promoter at a chromosome 13q32.3 locus in the hESC line WA09 and an abnormal hESC line BG01V in a site-specific manner. Expression of reporters in these lines was maintained in long-term culture at undifferentiated state. However, when these cells were differentiated into specific lineages, reduction in reporter expression was observed, indicating transgene silencing. To develop an efficient and reliable genetic engineering strategy in hESCs, we used chromatin insulator elements to flank single-copy transgenes and integrated the combined expression constructs via PhiC31/R4 integrase-mediated recombination technology to the chromosome 13 locus precisely. Two copies of cHS4 double-insulator sequences were placed adjacent to both 5′ and 3′ of the promoter reporter constructs. The green fluorescent protein (GFP) gene was driven by EF1α or CMV early enhancer/chicken β actin (CAG) promoter. In the engineered hESC lines, for both insulated CAG-GFP and EF1α-GFP, constitutive expression at the chromosome 13 locus was maintained during prolonged culture and in directed differentiation assays toward diverse types of neurons, pancreatic endoderm, and mesodermal progeny. In particular, described here is the first normal hESC fluorescent reporter line that robustly expresses GFP in both the undifferentiated state and throughout dopaminergic lineage differentiation. The dual strategy of utilizing insulator sequences and integration at the constitutive chromosome 13 locus ensures appropriate transgene expression. This is a valuable tool for lineage development study, gain- and loss-of-function experiments, and human disease modeling using hESCs.
The phenomenal progress made in stem cell biology in the past few years has infused the field of regenerative medicine with a great deal of scientific enthusiasm. However, along with the excitement of discovery comes a new sense of translational urgency. The prospect of using embryonic and induced pluripotent stem cell tools and technologies to produce cell-based therapies and other treatments is no longer a distant dream; it is a very real opportunity that demands our attention today. As with most new fields, regenerative medicine has experienced some significant growing pains, and we have identified a number of key obstacles to progress. Given our role as the lead U.S. biomedical research agency and the world's largest supporter of medical research, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has a responsibility to find ways to reduce or remove many of these obstacles and, consequently, has—and continues—to respond to these challenges in a variety of ways. In this brief essay, we will review our progress and highlight a new development: the founding of a Center for Regenerative Medicine on the NIH campus.
Parkinson's disease (PD) is a debilitating neurodegenerative disease characterized primarily by the selective death of dopaminergic (DA) neurons in the substantia nigra pars compacta of the midbrain. Although several genetic forms of PD have been identified, the precise molecular mechanisms underlying DA neuron loss in PD remain elusive. In recent years, microRNAs (miRNAs) have been recognized as potent post-transcriptional regulators of gene expression with fundamental roles in numerous biological processes. Although their role in PD pathogenesis is still a very active area of investigation, several seminal studies have contributed significantly to our understanding of the roles these small non-coding RNAs play in the disease process. Among these are studies which have demonstrated specific miRNAs that target and down-regulate the expression of PD-related genes as well as those demonstrating a reciprocal relationship in which PD-related genes act to regulate miRNA processing machinery. Concurrently, a wealth of knowledge has become available regarding the molecular mechanisms that unify the underlying etiology of genetic and sporadic PD pathogenesis, including dysregulated protein quality control by the ubiquitin-proteasome system and autophagy pathway, activation of programmed cell death, mitochondrial damage and aberrant DA neurodevelopment and maintenance. Following a discussion of the interactions between PD-related genes and miRNAs, this review highlights those studies which have elucidated the roles of these pathways in PD pathogenesis. We highlight the potential of miRNAs to serve a critical regulatory role in the implicated disease pathways, given their capacity to modulate the expression of entire families of related genes. Although few studies have directly linked miRNA regulation of these pathways to PD, a strong foundation for investigation has been laid and this area holds promise to reveal novel therapeutic targets for PD.
Parkinson's disease; microRNA (miRNA); ubiquitin-proteasome system; autophagy; apoptosis; mitochondria; dopaminergic neurons; iPS cells
Reprogramming somatic cells to a pluripotent state by nucleic acid based (NAB) approaches, involving the ectopic expression of transcription factors, has emerged as a standard method. We recently demonstrated that limbal progenitors that regenerate cornea are reprogrammable to pluripotency by a non-NAB approach through simple manipulation of microenvironment thus extending the possible therapeutic use of these readily accessible cells beyond the proven treatment of corneal diseases and injury. Therefore, to determine the validity and robustness of non-cell autonomous reprogramming of limbal progenitors for a wider clinical use, here, we have compared their reprogramming by non-NAB and NAB approaches. We observed that both approaches led to (1) the emergence of colonies displaying pluripotency markers, accompanied by a temporal reciprocal changes in limbal-specific and pluripotency gene expression, and (2) epigenetic alterations of Oct4 and Nanog, associated with the de-novo activation of their expression. While the efficiency of reprogramming and passaging of re-programmed cells were significantly better with the NAB approach, the non-NAB approach, in contrast, led to a regulated reprogramming of gene expression, and a significant decrease in the expression of Hormad1, a gene associated with immunogenic responses. The reprogramming efficiency by non-NAB approach was influenced by exosomes present in conditioned medium. Cells reprogrammed by both approaches were capable of differentiating along the three germ lineages and generating chimeras. The analysis suggests that both approaches are effective in reprogramming limbal progenitors but the non-NAB approach may be more suitable for potential clinical applications by averting the risk of insertional mutagenesis and immune responses associated with the NAB approach.
Neurological syndromes, such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, Huntington’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, and lysosomal storage disorders, such as Battens disease, are devastating because they result in increasing loss of cognitive and physical function. Sadly, no drugs are currently available to halt their progression. The relative paucity of curative approaches for these and other conditions of the nervous system have led to a widespread evaluation of alternative treatment modalities including cell-based interventions. Several cell types have been tested successfully in animal models where safety and efficacy have been demonstrated. Early clinical trials have also been initiated in humans, and some have shown a degree of success albeit on a more limited scale than in animal experiments. Recent demonstrations that pluripotent stem cells, such as embryonic stem cells and induced pluripotent stem cells, can differentiate into a variety of specific neural phenotypes has stimulated worldwide enthusiasm for developing cell-based intervention of neurological disease. Indeed, several groups are preparing investigational new drug applications to treat disorders as diverse as macular degeneration, lysosomal storage diseases, and Parkinson’s disease. It is noteworthy that cell replacement therapies for neurological conditions face key challenges, some of which are unique, because of the development and organization of the nervous system, its metabolism, and connectivity. Choice of the cell (or cells), the process of manufacturing them, defining the delivery pathway, developing and testing in an appropriate preclinical model, selecting a patient population, and visualizing and following or monitoring patients all pose specific issues as related to the central and peripheral nervous systems. In this review, we address a myriad of challenges that are solvable, but require careful planning and attention to the special demands of the human nervous system.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s13311-011-0066-9) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
Pluripotent stem cells; ESC; CNS roadblocks
A summit on cellular therapy for cancer discussed and presented advances related to the use of adoptive cellular therapy for melanoma and other cancers. The summit revealed that this field is advancing rapidly. Conventional cellular therapies, such as tumor infiltrating lymphocytes (TIL), are becoming more effective and more available. Gene therapy is becoming an important tool in adoptive cell therapy. Lymphocytes are being engineered to express high affinity T cell receptors (TCRs), chimeric antibody-T cell receptors (CARs) and cytokines. T cell subsets with more naïve and stem cell-like characteristics have been shown in pre-clinical models to be more effective than unselected populations and it is now possible to reprogram T cells and to produce T cells with stem cell characteristics. In the future, combinations of adoptive transfer of T cells and specific vaccination against the cognate antigen can be envisaged to further enhance the effectiveness of these therapies.
Stem cells have been identified and characterized in a variety of tissues. In this review we examine possible shared properties of stem cells. We suggest that irrespective of their lineal origin, stem cells have to respond in similar ways to regulate self-renewal and differentiation and it is likely that cell-cycle control, asymmetry/differentiation controls, cellular protective and DNA repair mechanisms, and associated apoptosis/senescence signaling pathways all might be expected to be more highly regulated in stem cells, likely by similar mechanisms. We review the literature to suggest a set of candidate stemness genes that may serve as universal stem cell markers. While we predict many similarities, we also predict that differences will exist between stem cell populations and that when transdifferentiation is considered genes expected to be both similar and different need to be examined.
Cellular abnormalities are not limited to motor neurons in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). There are numerous observations of astrocyte dysfunction in both humans with ALS and in SOD1G93A rodents, a widely studied ALS model. The present study therapeutically targeted astrocyte replacement in this model via transplantation of human Glial-Restricted Progenitors (hGRPs), lineage-restricted progenitors derived from human fetal neural tissue. Our previous findings demonstrated that transplantation of rodent-derived GRPs into cervical spinal cord ventral gray matter (in order to target therapy to diaphragmatic function) resulted in therapeutic efficacy in the SOD1G93A rat. Those findings demonstrated the feasibility and efficacy of transplantation-based astrocyte replacement for ALS, and also show that targeted multi-segmental cell delivery to cervical spinal cord is a promising therapeutic strategy, particularly because of its relevance to addressing respiratory compromise associated with ALS. The present study investigated the safety and in vivo survival, distribution, differentiation, and potential efficacy of hGRPs in the SOD1G93A mouse. hGRP transplants robustly survived and migrated in both gray and white matter and differentiated into astrocytes in SOD1G93A mice spinal cord, despite ongoing disease progression. However, cervical spinal cord transplants did not result in motor neuron protection or any therapeutic benefits on functional outcome measures. This study provides an in vivo characterization of this glial progenitor cell and provides a foundation for understanding their capacity for survival, integration within host tissues, differentiation into glial subtypes, migration, and lack of toxicity or tumor formation.
Stem cell researchers in the United States continue to face an uncertain future, because of the changing federal guidelines governing this research, the restrictive patent situation surrounding the generation of new human embryonic stem cell lines, and the ethical divide over the use of embryos for research. In this commentary, we describe how recent advances in the derivation of induced pluripotent stem cells and the isolation of germ-line-derived pluripotent stem cells resolve a number of these uncertainties. The availability of patient-matched, pluripotent stem cells that can be obtained by ethically acceptable means provides important advantages for stem cell researchers, by both avoiding protracted ethical debates and giving U.S. researchers full access to federal funding. Thus, ethically uncompromised stem cells, such as those derived by direct reprogramming or from germ-cell precursors, are likely to yield important advances in stem cell research and move the field rapidly toward clinical applications.
Tumors are complex systems with a diversity of cell phenotypes essential to tumor initiation and maintenance. With the heterogeneity present within the neoplastic compartment as its foundation, the cancer stem cell hypothesis posits that a fraction of tumor cells has the capacity to recapitulate the parental tumor upon transplantation. Over the last decade, the cancer stem cell hypothesis has gained support and shown to be relevant in many highly lethal solid tumors. However, the cancer stem cell hypothesis is not without its controversies and critics question the validity of this hypothesis based upon comparisons to normal somatic stem cells. Cancer stem cells may have direct therapeutic relevance due to resistance to current treatment paradigms, suggesting novel multimodal therapies targeting the cancer stem cells may improve patient outcomes. In this review, we will use the most common primary brain tumor, glioblastoma multiforme, as an example to illustrate why studying cancer stem cells holds great promise for more effective therapies to highly lethal tumors. In addition, we will discuss why the abilities of self-renewal and tumor propagation are the critical defining properties of cancer stem cells. Furthermore, we will examine recent progress in defining appropriate cell surface selection markers and mouse models which explore the potential cell(s) or origin for GBMs. What remains clear is that a population of cells is present in many tumors which are resistant to conventional therapies and must be considered in the design of the next generation of cancer treatments.
brain tumor stem cell; review; cell of origin; cancer stem cell hypothesis
We have examined primary human neuronal precursors (HNPs) from 18–22-week-old fetuses. We showed that E-NCAM/MAP2/β-III tubulin-immunoreactive neuronal precursors divide in vitro and could be induced to differentiate into mature neurons in 2 weeks. HNPs did not express nestin and differentiated slowly compared to rodent neuronal restricted precursors (NRPs, 5 days). Immunocytochemical and physiological analyses showed that HNPs could generate a heterogeneous population of neurons that expressed neurofilament-associated protein and various neurotransmitters, neurotransmitter synthesizing enzymes, voltage-gated ion channels, and ligand-gated neurotransmitter receptors and could fire action potentials. Undifferentiated and differentiated HNPs did not coexpress glial markers. Only a subset of cells that expressed GFP under the control of the Tα1 tubulin promoter was E-NCAM/β-III tubulin-immunoreactive, indicating nonexclusive overlap between these two HNP cell populations. Overall, HNPs resemble NRPs isolated from rodent tissue and appear to be a neuronal precursor population.
stem cells; differentiation; electrophysiology
Neuronal restricted precursors (NRPs) (Mayer-Proschel et al., 1997) can generate multiple neurotransmitter phenotypes during maturation in culture. Undifferentiated E-NCAM+ (embryonic neural cell adhesion molecule) immunoreactive NRPs are mitotically active and electrically immature, and they express only a subset of neuronal markers. Fully mature cells are postmitotic, process-bearing cells that are neurofilament-M and synaptophysin immunoreactive, and they synthesize and respond to different subsets of neurotransmitter molecules. Mature neurons that synthesize and respond to glycine, glutamate, GABA, dopamine, and acetylcholine can be identified by immunocytochemistry, RT-PCR, and calcium imaging in mass cultures. Individual NRPs also generate heterogeneous progeny as assessed by neurotransmitter response and synthesis, demonstrating the multipotent nature of the precursor cells.
Differentiation can be modulated by sonic hedgehog (Shh) and bone morphogenetic protein (BMP)-2/4 molecules. Shh acts as a mitogen and inhibits differentiation (including cholinergic differentiation). BMP-2 and BMP-4, in contrast, inhibit cell division and promote differentiation (including cholinergic differentiation). Thus, a single neuronal precursor cell can differentiate into multiple classes of neurons, and this differentiation can be modulated by environmental signals.
E-NCAM; spinal cord development; neuroblasts; stem cells; Shh; BMP
Although most stem cell therapy has been non-controversial, therapy based on pluripotent stem cells has raised both ethical and safety concerns. Despite these concerns, the use of cells derived from pluripotent stem cells has recently been approved for clinical trials. We suggest that recent advances in the field have provided avenues to develop pluripotent cells that raise far fewer ethical concerns. Moreover, advances in cell sorting, gene modification and screening have allowed the development of safer therapeutic approaches. Continued advances in this rapidly evolving field are likely to allow therapy to be delivered in a safe and effective manner without socially divisive ethical controversy in the not-so-distant future.