New Stem Cell Research in the UK

November 12, 2012

New Stem Cell Research in the UK

In early December 2011, the ScienceDaily reported that King’s College London gave the United Kingdom Stem Cell Bank (UKSCB) clinical-grade human embryonic stem cell lines (hES) that were free of any contamination in terms of animal-derived products. This was a significant milestone for the UK in terms of developing new stem cell therapies for patients. The idea is that the UKSCB will grow and process these cells to generate stem cell stocks that will be used not only for researchers but treat patients as well. The Medical Research Council (MRC) has been funding this project for nearly 10 years and hopefully these human embryonic cell lines will allow the UK to stay in the forefront of stem cell research and therapies.

Scientists have been growing embryonic stem cells in the lab for some time because they demonstrated great potential for medical therapies. These cells can be grown in culture for an indefinite period of time. These cells have the capability to develop into any number of cell types when grown under the right conditions. So, they can develop into say heart cells, brain cells and other tissues making them useful for transplantation into patients who have cancer, traumatic injury or congenital defects. These embryonic stem cells come from patients who have had in vitro fertilization (IVF) procedures where conception was difficult or impossible under natural conditions. The embryos that are not used are frozen and if the patient no longer wants them they are discarded. However, the patient can donate their embryos to science for research purposes if they like.

To date, stem cell research has run into a few snags in terms of the required growing conditions to establish different cells lines to support different tissues of the body and brain without the use of various enzymes and serums from non-human sources. These contaminates are not satisfactory for human implantation due to rejection of foreign materials. Researchers at King’s College London has found a way to provide contaminant free stem cell lines which has become a major step forward for stem cell clinical trials.

Phase 1 safety clinical trials are in the process for patients with spinal cord injuries and macular degeneration. Because of this new development, these clinical trials have been reclassified from research grade to clinical grade studies. This is however, a temporary situation for expediency sake for further research information. This of course is not satisfactory for clinical trials in the future. Much more information is needed to develop strict protocols for these procedures as well as providing documented information about the stem cells lines and their production in labs and storage facilities.

Further testing on stem cell lines is needed to establish methodology and standards for generating animal contaminant free stem cell lines and that needs to be well documented that will satisfy the medical and research communities that ensures the reliability of stem cell stocks. Hopefully, these standards with be accepted across the globe for all to make use of.

The generation of animal free contaminants in stem cells by researchers at King’s College have brought us closer to actually doing stem cell therapies in humans. These therapies show great promise to treat patients that have diseases that currently we have no cure for.

Tags: ,

Category: Articles