The neural stem cell industry is a rapidly evolving industry. Every month there are major events occurring in the sector that shift industry dynamics. Often, these events are announcements of technical or scientific advancements. Sometimes they are announcements of major industry alliances. Occasionally, they are announcements of a new industry competitor, a major milestone, or a significant funding award.
For those of us interested in the neural stem cell industry, tracking these shifting industry dynamics is of paramount importance. For this reason, this post covers the most significant neural stem cell industry news events as of June 2015.
Neural Stem Cell Industry Round-Up | June 2015
Large Doses Of Antioxidants May Be Harmful To Neuronal Stem Cells
[June 17, 2015] Stem cells are especially sensitive to oxygen radicals and antioxidants shows new research from the group of Anu Wartiovaara in the Molecular Neurology Research Program of University of Helsinki.
The current research showed that a small increase in oxygen radicals did not directly lead to cellular damage but disrupted intracellular signaling in stem cells and lead to decrease in their stemness properties. Treatment with antioxidants was able to improve the stemness properties in these cells. However, surprisingly, the researchers found that an antioxidant targeted to mitochondria showed dose-dependent toxic effects especially on neural stem cells.
Specific Roles of Adult Neural Stem Cells May Be Determined Before Birth
[June 24, 2015] Adult neural stem cells, which are commonly thought of as having the ability to develop into many type of brain cells, are in reality pre-programmed before birth to make very specific types of neurons, at least in mice, according to a study led by UC San Francisco researchers.
In mouse brains, as in human brains, adult neural stem cells reside on the walls of cavities called ventricles, which are filled with cerebrospinal fluid. Using sophisticated DNA tagging techniques, Alvarez-Buylla and his team traced the development of mouse adult neural stem cells back to their embryonic progenitors. They found that most neural stem cells are produced when the mouse embryo is between 13 and 15 days old, “quite early in embryonic brain development,” said Alvarez-Buylla, and then remain quiescent until reactivated later in life.
“This means that, somehow, these cells go through a period of neuron production for the embryonic brain and then switch to a different mode and produce cells that get set apart to become adult neural cell progenitors,” said Alvarez-Buylla. “What is incredible is that the neurons that are produced in the embryo are extremely different than the neurons produced for the adult. So somehow, these embryonic stem cells are switching modes and producing entirely new cell types. This finding has the potential to fundamentally change our picture of the relationship between embryonic and adult stem cells.”
Embryonic Origin of Postnatal Neural Stem Cells
[June 18, 2015] Adult neural stem/progenitor (B1) cells within the walls of the lateral ventricles generate different types of neurons for the olfactory bulb (OB). The location of B1 cells determines the types of OB neurons they generate. Here we show that the majority of mouse B1 cell precursors are produced between embryonic days (E) 13.5 and 15.5 and remain largely quiescent until they become reactivated postnatally.
Using a retroviral library carrying over 100,000 genetic tags, we found that B1 cells share a common progenitor with embryonic cells of the cortex, striatum, and septum, but this lineage relationship is lost before E15.5. The regional specification of B1 cells is evident as early as E11.5 and is spatially linked to the production of neurons that populate different areas of the forebrain. This study reveals an early embryonic regional specification of postnatal neural stem cells and the lineage relationship between them and embryonic progenitor cells.
StemCells, Inc.’s Phase II Pathway Study for Cervical Spinal Cord Injury Approved by Health Canada
[June 18, 2015] StemCells, Inc. (Nasdaq:STEM), a world leader in the research and development of cell-based therapeutics for the treatment of central nervous system diseases and disorders, announced today that Health Canada has authorized the Company to expand its Phase II clinical trial for chronic cervical spinal cord injury into Canada.
The Pathway Study™ is designed to assess the efficacy of the Company’s proprietary HuCNS-SC® platform technology (purified human neural stem cells) for the treatment of cervical spinal cord injury with the primary efficacy outcome being the change in motor strength of the various muscle groups in the upper extremities innervated by the cervical spinal cord.
Q Therapeutics Announces FDA Clearance of Its Stem Cell Therapy Q-Cells for Human Trials in ALS
[June 4, 2015] Q Therapeutics, Inc., a company focused on adult stem cell therapies for disorders of the central nervous system, recently announced that its product Q-Cells® has received Investigational New Drug (IND) clearance by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)for the start of Phase 1/2a clinical trials in humans to evaluate the safety and tolerability of Q-Cells in patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).
Q-Cells corresponds to a cell-based therapeutic product candidate designed to preserve or restore the normal neural activity. It is based on glial-restricted progenitor cells (GRPs), which are the early descendants of neural stem cells that generate only glia – non-neuronal cells that constitute up to 50% of the brain cells and that provide support and protection for neurons, being also involved in the restoration of neuron health. Pre-clinical data using animal models of ALS and other central nervous system disorders showed that the administration of glial cells into the brain and spinal cord can alter the course of disorders that are currently considered incurable.
Stem cell therapy for stroke shows need for rigorous trials in US
[June 22, 2015]The University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Su-Chun Zhang was the first scientist to isolate neural stem cells from embryonic stem cells and then from other types of all-purpose stem cells. He says medical researchers and the federal government have a responsibility to forge ahead with clinical trials to prove whether and how these flexible cells can replace damaged or dead neural cells caused by spinal cord injury, stroke and Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS).
“We have no effective treatment for stroke,” says Zhang, a medical doctor and Ph.D. researcher at the UW’s Waisman Center. “After a couple of hours, the cells are dead if they don’t have a blood supply. And the brain has a very limited capacity to regenerate, particularly in older patients.”
As his interests have shifted from pioneering the basic science of stem cells to their application to relieve suffering, Zhang has proposed building a master neural cell bank and initiating clinical trials. “We are at the point where I feel much more confident about the cells and the procedures. If we are careful and follow the rules set by the FDA, we can do a good job. It may take a few more years, but we are really getting close.”
To learn more about how to develop neural stem cell and progenitor cell products, view the “Strategic Development of Neural Stem & Progenitor Cell Products Report.”
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