• Stem Cell Breakthrough has Therapies Potential

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Stem Cell Breakthrough has Therapies Potential

Sep 27 2011

Scientists from the universities of Southampton and Glasgow have uncovered a new method for culturing adult stem cells which could lead to the creation of revolutionary stem cell therapies for conditions such as arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.

The research, funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and the University of
Glasgow* shows how a new nanoscale plastic can cheaply and easily solve a problem which has previously made the expansion of stem cells for therapeutic purposes impossible. Harvested cells need to be increased in volume sufficiently enough to kick-start the process of cellular regeneration when they are reintroduced back into the patient but the process is made more difficult by spontaneous stem cell differentiation, where stem cells grown on standard plastic tissue culture surfaces do not expand to create new stem cells but instead create other cells which are of no use in therapy.

The new nanopatterned surface, developed and fabricated at the University of Glasgow, is designed to offer a method of stem cell expansion which is much easier to manufacture and use than anything currently available. Created by an injection-moulding process similar to that which is used to manufacture Blu-ray discs, the surface is covered with 120-nanometre pits which the researchers have found is much more effective in allowing stem cells to grow and spread whilst retaining their stem cell characteristics. Dr Matthew Dalby from the University of Glasgow, who led the research alongside colleagues Dr Nikolaj Gadegaard and Professor Richard Oreffo of the University of
Southampton, explained: “Until now, it’s been very difficult to grow stem cells in sufficient numbers and maintain them as stem cells for use in therapy. What we and our colleagues at the University of Southampton have shown is that this new nanostructured surface can be used to very effectively culture mesencyhmal stem cells, taken from sources such as bone marrow, which can then be put to use in musculoskeletal, orthopaedic and connective tissues. “If the same process can be used to culture other types of stem cells too, and this research in under way in our labs, our technology could be the first step on the road to developing large-scale stem cell culture factories.” *The paper, titled ‘Nanoscale surfaces for the long-term maintenance of mesenchymalstem cell phenotype and multipotency’, is published in the journal Nature Materials.


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