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Stem cell study paves the way for patient therapies

Stem cells that have been specifically developed for use as clinical therapies are fit for use in patients, an independent study of their genetic makeup suggests. The research — which focused on human embryonic stem cells — paves the way for clinical trials of cell therapies to treat conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, age-related degeneration of the eyes and spinal cord injury.

Scientists at the University of Edinburgh investigated the genetic make-up of human stem cells that have been grown in the laboratory from cells found in the early embryo. The 25 cell lines tested were all ‘clinical-grade’ — which means they meet the strict quality requirements for cell lines earmarked for use as therapies.

The team at the Medical Research Council Centre for Regenerative Medicine analysed each of the cell lines using a technique called molecular karyotyping, which is a highly sensitive method of detecting genetic abnormalities. More than half of the cell lines carried large but stable genetic differences, the researchers found. However, these changes are also present in healthy people without significant consequences, reflecting the genetic diversity of the human population.

Dr Tilo Kunath, Senior Research Fellow at the Medical Research Council Centre for Regenerative Medicine, University of Edinburgh, said: “This is the largest study of therapeutically useful stem cells to date and shows that we are in a good place to push forward new cell therapies into clinical trials.”

Journal Reference:

Maurice A. Canham, Amy Van Deusen, Daniel R. Brison, Paul A. De Sousa, Janet Downie, Liani Devito, Zoe A. Hewitt, Dusko Ilic, Susan J. Kimber, Harry D. Moore, Helen Murray, Tilo Kunath. The Molecular Karyotype of 25 Clinical-Grade Human Embryonic Stem Cell Lines. Scientific Reports, 2015; 5: 17258 DOI: 10.1038/srep17258

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