Science Brief: Gold Standard’ Stem Cells created By British Scientists
British scientists have created the first known batch of “gold standard” stem cells
which could one day lead to a new wave of treatments for degenerative diseases.
The stem cells, taken from human embryos and grown in the lab, are of unprecedented quality and could be offered to researchers before the end of next year for eventual use in clinical trials. Previous embryonic stem cell (ESC) trials in humans have used lower-quality “research grade” cells, which are manipulated and reclassified into “clinical grade”.
But the new ESCs, described as the “Holy Grail for regenerative medicine”, are of clinical quality from the moment they are donated by patients and do not require a costly and risky conversion. They are also untainted by animal-derived products which have been used by other researchers to stimulate growth. 2 lines of stem cells can be converted into virtually any type of tissue in the body, have been donated to the UK Stem Cell Bank (UKSCB) by researchers from King’s College London. (Telegraph)
The Bottom Line: While ESCs of similar quality could potentially have been cultured in secret by private researchers such as drug companies, these are the first of their kind to be developed for public health benefit. A line of cells of a similar quality is being developed byManchester University researchers and is expected to be donated to the stem cell bank next month. At the UKSCB the cell lines will undergo rigorous testing to ensure they are safe and of a sufficient caliber for use in human trials, but it is hoped they will be a “seed-stock” for future experiments. Cells could be handed over to university scientists or private companies by the end of next year, though there would likely be a significant period of preparation by researchers before clinical trials actually began. ESCs are taken from frozen embryos the size of a pinhead, which are donated to researchers by IVF patients who have no further use for them and would otherwise have been discarded.
Prof Peter Braude, a leading member of the team, said: “The key here is that these are clinical grade lines, they have been set up from the beginning as lines that do not contain animal products and have not got animal products coming into contact with them.” Prof Braude said the achievement, recorded in the Cytotherapy journal, marked ten years of painstaking research. He said: “Cells that are ready for clinical use have really been the Holy Grail of everybody in terms of regenerative medicine.”There is still a long way to go … these are not ready for use now. They get handed over to the stem cell bank and they do exhaustive testing and a lot of lines are going to fail.”