ES cells as immune modulators: look out MSCs !!

Sunday October 5th, 2008 @ 21:20:25 EST

From Category: Immunology
Comments: No comments

Ein Kerem, Israel -

As you may have noticed, we at seem to stay way from the whole politics of this "embryonic stem cell debate".  The main reason being that there have been numerous advances made in the area of adult stem cells, already being in Phase III of clinical trials, while formal US clinical trials of embryonic stem cells have not even been allowed yet.  (Note we did cover the Indian ES clinical pilot studies).  People who argue that "adult stem cells are no good", usually can not even provide the answer to what medical advantages embryonic stem cells have had...they have revolutionized could they revolutionize science if they are not clinically used?  It is due to the fact that the mouse embryonic stem cell technology has allowed for creation of knockouts and transgenics which tell us everything we know about molecular biology as it translates to in vivo systems...people will not mention this in debates !

There is another critical point to bring up about embryonic stem cells.  While the whole world is trying to differentiate them into tissues ranging from neurons, to islets, to livers, very few people will bring up the point that even if you are successful in doing this, they will be rejected by the allogeneic immune system.  Well, the company Novocell at least had this foresight and has clinical grade encapsulation technology.

Last week there was a paper published that demonstrated therapeutic potential of embryonic stem cell derived cells across not only allogeneic barriers, but even xenogeneic ones !  In the context of autoimmunity.  The work originated from Hadassah University Hospital and Hadasit, the tech transfer company of the Hadassah Medical Organization.

The study, Aharonowiz et al. Neuroprotective effect of transplanted human embryonic stem cell-derived neural precursors in an animal model of multiple sclerosis. PLoS One 2008 Sep 5;3(9):e3145. demonstrated that human embryonic stem cell derived neuronal progenitors could inhibit the mouse model of multiple sclerosis, called EAE.  The inhibition of disease WAS NOT ASSOCIATED with regeneration of new neurons...but actually by immune suppression.

We already know that the first clinically approved stem cells will more than likely be Osiris's and the indications they are going for are not regenerative but more immune based (GVHD and Crohn's).  This is why it will be so interesting if the paper and IP associated with it will lead the way towards ES cells being used as immune modulators instead of regenerative cells.  Philosophically, since ES cells are closer to cancer cells than adult stem cells, and since cancer cells are immune suppressive, maybe in general the ES cell is more immune suppressive as compared to adult stem cells.  Back to back studies have not been performed to our knowledge.

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