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March 2002

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Medical technology

Regeneration of ischemic cardiac muscle and vascular endothelium by adult stem cells.

Myocyte loss in the ischemically injured mammalian heart often leads to irreversible deficits in cardiac function. To identify a source of stem cells capable of restoring damaged cardiac tissue, we transplanted highly enriched hematopoietic stem cells, the so-called side population (SP) cells, into lethally irradiated mice subsequently rendered ischemic by coronary artery occlusion for 60 minutes followed by reperfusion. The engrafted SP cells (CD34(-)/low, c-Kit(+), Sca-1(+)) or their progeny migrated into ischemic cardiac muscle and blood vessels, differentiated to cardiomyocytes and endothelial cells, and contributed to the formation of functional tissue. SP cells were purified from Rosa26 transgenic mice, which express lacZ widely. Donor-derived cardiomyocytes were found primarily in the peri-infarct region at a prevalence of around 0.02% and were identified by expression of lacZ and alpha-actinin, and lack of expression of CD45. Donor-derived endothelial cells were identified by expression of lacZ and Flt-1, an endothelial marker shown to be absent on SP cells. Endothelial engraftment was found at a prevalence of around 3.3%, primarily in small vessels adjacent to the infarct. Our results demonstrate the cardiomyogenic potential of hematopoietic stem cells and suggest a therapeutic strategy that eventually could benefit patients with myocardial infarction.

J Clin Invest 2001 Jun;107(11):1395-402

Bone marrow cells regenerate infarcted myocardium.

Myocardial infarction leads to loss of tissue and impairment of cardiac performance. The remaining myocytes are unable to reconstitute the necrotic tissue, and the post-infarcted heart deteriorates with time. Injury to a target organ is sensed by distant stem cells, which migrate to the site of damage and undergo alternate stem cell differentiation; these events promote structural and functional repair. This high degree of stem cell plasticity prompted us to test whether dead myocardium could be restored by transplanting bone marrow cells in infarcted mice. We sorted lineage-negative (Lin-) bone marrow cells from transgenic mice expressing enhanced green fluorescent protein by fluorescence-activated cell sorting on the basis of c-kit expression. Shortly after coronary ligation, Lin- c-kitPOS cells were injected in the contracting wall bordering the infarct. Here we report that newly formed myocardium occupied 68% of the infarcted portion of the ventricle 9 days after transplanting the bone marrow cells. The developing tissue comprised proliferating myocytes and vascular structures. Our studies indicate that locally delivered bone marrow cells can generate de novo myocardium, ameliorating the outcome of coronary artery disease.

Nature 2001 Apr 5;410(6829):701-5

Myocyte transplantation for myocardial repair: a few good cells can mend a broken heart.

Cell transplantation is a potential therapeutic approach for patients with chronic myocardial failure. Experimental transplantation of neonatal and fetal cardiac myocytes showed that the grafted cells can functionally integrate with and augment the function of the recipient heart. Clinical application of this approach will be limited by shortage of donors, chronic rejection, and because it is ethically contentious. By contrast skeletal myoblasts (satellite cells) are abundant and can be grafted successfully into the animal’s own heart even after genetic manipulation in vitro. Functional integration of myoblasts, however, is hampered by the lack of intercellular gap junction communication and the difference in excitation-contraction coupling between skeletal and cardiac myocytes. In experimental studies several other cell types have been used to augment cardiac function. In this review we discuss the published results of myocyte transplantation with emphasis on potential sources of cells, the ethics of using donor embryonic and fetal cardiomyocytes, genetic transformation of skeletal myoblasts for myocardial repair, and the functional benefits of cell transplantation to the failing heart.

Ann Thorac Surg 2001 May;71(5):1724-33

Neogenesis of cerebellar Purkinje neurons from gene-marked bone marrow cells in vivo.

The versatility of stem cells has only recently been fully recognized. There is evidence that upon adoptive bone marrow (BM) transplantation (BMT), donor-derived cells can give rise to neuronal phenotypes in the brains of recipient mice. Yet only few cells with the characteristic shape of neurons were detected 1-6 mo post-BMT using transgenic or newborn mutant mice. To evaluate the potential of BM to generate mature neurons in adult C57BL/6 mice, we transferred the enhanced green fluorescent protein (GFP) gene into BM cells using a murine stem cell virus-based retroviral vector. Stable and high level long-term GFP expression was observed in mice transplanted with the transduced BM. Engraftment of GFP-expressing cells in the brain was monitored by intravital microscopy. In a long-term follow up of 15 mo post-BMT, fully developed Purkinje neurons were found to express GFP in both cerebellar hemispheres and in all chimeric mice. GFP-positive Purkinje cells were also detected in BM chimeras from transgenic mice that ubiquitously express GFP. Based on morphologic criteria and the expression of glutamic acid decarboxylase, the newly generated Purkinje cells were functional.

Journal of Cell Biology 2001, 155:5:733-738, Nov. 26

Multi-organ, multi-lineage engraftment by a single bone marrow-derived stem cell.

Purification of rare hematopoietic stem cell(s) (HSC) to homogeneity is required to study their self-renewal, differentiation, phenotype, and homing. Long-term repopulation (LTR) of irradiated hosts and serial transplantation to secondary hosts represent the gold standard for demonstrating self-renewal and differentiation, the defining properties of HSC. We show that rare cells that home to bone marrow can LTR primary and secondary recipients. During the homing, CD34 and SCA-1 expression increases uniquely on cells that home to marrow. These adult bone marrow cells have tremendous differentiative capacity as they can also differentiate into epithelial cells of the liver, lung, GI tract and skin. This finding may contribute to clinical treatment of genetic disease or tissue repair.

Cell 2001 May 4;105(3):369-77

Embryonic stem cell lines derived from human blastocysts.

Human blastocyst-derived, pluripotent cell lines are described that have normal karyotypes, express high levels of telomerase activity, and express cell surface markers that characterize primate embryonic stem cells but do not characterize other early lineages. After undifferentiated proliferation in vitro for 4 to 5 months, these cells still maintained the developmental potential to form trophoblast and derivatives of all three embryonic germ layers, including gut epithelium (endoderm); cartilage, bone, smooth muscle and striated muscle (mesoderm); and neural epithelium, embryonic ganglia and stratified squamous epithelium (ectoderm). These cell lines should be useful in human developmental biology, drug discovery and transplantation medicine.

Science 1998 Nov 6;282(5391):1145-7

Neural progenitors from human embryonic stem cells.

The derivation of neural progenitor cells from human embryonic stem (ES) cells is of value both in the study of early human neurogenesis and in the creation of an unlimited source of donor cells for neural transplantation therapy. Here we report the generation of enriched and expandable preparations of proliferating neural progenitors from human ES cells. The neural progenitors could differentiate in vitro into the three neural lineages?astrocytes, oligodendrocytes and mature neurons. When human neural progenitors were transplanted into the ventricles of newborn mouse brains, they incorporated in large numbers into the host brain parenchyma, demonstrated widespread distribution and differentiated into progeny of the three neural lineages. The transplanted cells migrated along established brain migratory tracks in the host brain and differentiated in a region-specific manner, indicating that they could respond to local cues and participate in the processes of host brain development. Our observations set the stage for future developments that may allow the use of human ES cells for the treatment of neurological disorders.

Nat Biotechnol 2001 Dec;19(12):1134-40

In vitro differentiation of transplantable neural precursors from human embryonic stem cells.

The remarkable developmental potential and replicative capacity of human embryonic stem (ES) cells promise an almost unlimited supply of specific cell types for transplantation therapies. Here we describe the in vitro differentiation, enrichment, and transplantation of neural precursor cells from human ES cells. Upon aggregation to embryoid bodies, differentiating ES cells formed large numbers of neural tube-like structures in the presence of fibroblast growth factor 2 (FGF-2). Neural precursors within these formations were isolated by selective enzymatic digestion and further purified on the basis of differential adhesion. Following withdrawal of FGF-2, they differentiated into neurons, astrocytes, and oligodendrocytes. After transplantation into the neonatal mouse brain, human ES cell-derived neural precursors were incorporated into a variety of brain regions, where they differentiated into both neurons and astrocytes. No teratoma formation was observed in the transplant recipients. These results depict human ES cells as a source of transplantable neural precursors for possible nervous system repair.

Nat Biotechnol 2001 Dec;19(12):1129-33

Induced neuronal differentiation of human embryonic stem cells.

Human embryonic stem (ES) cells are pluripotent cells capable of forming differentiated embryoid bodies (EBs) in culture. We examined the ability of growth factors under controlled conditions to increase the number of human ES cell-derived neurons. Retinoic acid (RA) and nerve growth factor (betaNGF) were found to be potent enhancers of neuronal differentiation, eliciting extensive outgrowth of processes and the expression of neuron-specific molecules. Our findings show that human ES cells have great potential to become an unlimited cell source for neurons in culture. These cells may then be used in transplantation therapies for neural pathologies.

Brain Res 2001 Sep 21;913(2):201-5

Reprogramming of telomerase activity and rebuilding of telomere length in cloned cattle.

Nuclear reprogramming requires the removal of epigenetic modifications imposed on the chromatin during cellular differentiation and division. The mammalian oocyte can reverse these alterations to a state of totipotency, allowing the production of viable cloned offspring from somatic cell nuclei. To determine whether nuclear reprogramming is complete in cloned animals, we assessed the telomerase activity and telomere length status in cloned embryos, fetuses and newborn offspring derived from somatic cell nuclear transfer. In this report, we show that telomerase activity was significantly (P < 0.05) diminished in bovine fibroblast donor cells compared with embryonic stem-like cells, and surprisingly was 16-fold higher in fetal fibroblasts compared with adult fibroblasts (P < 0.05). Cell passaging and culture periods under serum starvation conditions significantly decreased telomerase activity by approximately 30-50% compared with nontreated early passage cells (P < 0.05). Telomere shortening was observed during in vitro culture of bovine fetal fibroblasts and in very late passages of embryonic stem-like cells. Reprogramming of telomerase activity was apparent by the blastocyst stage of postcloning embryonic development, and telomere lengths were longer (15-23 kb) in cloned fetuses and offspring than the relatively short mean terminal restriction fragment lengths (14-18 kb) observed in adult donor cells. Overall, telomere lengths of cloned fetuses and newborn calves (approximately 20 kb) were not significantly different from those of age-matched control animals (P > 0.05). These results demonstrate that cloned embryos inherit genomic modifications acquired during the donor nuclei’s in vivo and in vitro period but are subsequently reversed during development of the cloned animal.

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 2001 Jan 30;98(3):1077-82

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