Applying Pluripotent Stem Cell Lines
Meanwhile, Stem Cell Innovations (SCI; www.stemcellinnovations.com) derived human pluripotent stem cells called PluriCells™ from fetal primordial germ cells. To date, 14 cell lines have been developed that can grow without feeder cells on plastic in a serum-free defined medium. “PluriCells are similar to embryonic stem cells in many of their marker proteins,” explains Helmuth van Es, Ph.D., CSO. “As they differentiate, the expression of the marker proteins disappears. The cells can differentiate into all three germ layers and are potentially capable of becoming any of the body’s 200 cells types.”
Currently, the company is looking at those differentiated cells that can most readily add value, such as in therapies for neurodegenerative disorders, including Alzheimer’s, Huntington’s, and Parkinson’s disease. “We are focusing on applications in drug discovery and preclinical development,” says Dr. van Es. “We hope to create those human biological models for discovery and molecule validation that are not currently available.”
Because of their origin, PluriCells are eligible for federal funding and so can be used for research in U.S. universities and nonprofit institutions.
SCI’s overall strategy is to make the cells widely available for research and accelerate human stem cell-based studies. Accordingly, the company recently signed an agreement with the ALS Association, under which, SCI is to develop human motor neuron cell models from the PluriCell technology. These can be used for high-throughput screening of potential ALS therapies.
Alliance partner, Galapagos(www.galapagos.com), will use the cell models to discover new ALS drug targets using its adenoviral RNAi library. SCI is also developing the motor neurons and their precursor cells as therapeutic agents.
In other collaborations, the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Institute is evaluating the PluriCells for their ability to differentiate into the cells implicated in hearing loss. In another agreement, the University of Twente in The Netherlands is looking at the ability of PluriCells to form bone and cartilage cells.