This patent is related to #7,138,275, which covers the composition of matter of a "A dedifferentiated, programmable cell of human monocytic origin, wherein said dedifferentiated, programmable cell of human monocytic origin expresses a CD14 antigen, a CD90 antigen, and a CD123 antigen."
The current patent covers the process of attaining the cells mentioned in #7,138,275, specifically "A process for the production of dedifferentiated, programmable cells of human monocytic origin, comprising: a) isolating monocytes from human blood; b) attaching said monocytes to a culture vessel; c) propagating said monocytes attached to said culture vessel in a culture medium comprising cellular growth factor M-CSF; and d) cultivating said monocytes simultaneously with or subsequently to step b) in a culture medium comprising IL-3"
This invention could be very potent for commercialization since the inventors are claiming to be able to differentiate the dedifferentiated monocyte cell into, intra alia, adipose, skin, neural, glia, hepatic, and pancreatic tissue. The beauty of the claimed technology is that monocytes are easily extractable from autologous sources, thus instead of having to generate iPS cells, one could simply retrodifferentiate monocytes. The other exciting aspect of this invention is that the fear of carcinogenesis is much lower since the dedifferentiated monocytes do not appear to be as de-differentiated as the iPS. Additionally, the process of the dedifferentiation does not utilize crazy things such as oncogenes. It only utilizes M-CSF and IL-3, compounds with not only are not toxic in vitro, but even clinical work has been performed with these.
It is known that after induction of inflammation there is a large-scale mobilization of stem cells into the damaged area. Does this also happen with monocytes? Well theoretically it should because monocytes are attracted to injured tissue, differentiate into macrophages, and help in the process of repair and healing, as well as phagocytosing the damaged tissue/bacteria.
Philosophically it is attractive to see the stem cell as an immune cell, but instead of just fighting pathogens, it also is involved in healing. This "taking down the wall" between immune cells and stem cells is further supported by the fact that CD34 stem cells have been reported in the lymph nodes and are "on guard" ready to become dendritic cells at the presence of innate immune activation. Immune molecules on CD34 stem cells, such as 4.1BB have been demonstrated to rapidly induce CD34 cells into immune effectors.
So while there is some evidence of stem cells playing an "immune function", the current patent proposes something different...immune cells playing a "stem cell" function. Given the unique genetic make up of T and B cells that allows for generation of almost unlimited combinations in the variable chains of the TCR and BCR, respectively, could one envision lymphoid cells also having a degree of transdifferentiation activity?