Thursday, December 19, 2013

Older fat-derived stem cells shown to be less potent than younger stem cells

Of the many sources of stem cells, most of us gain a bit of one of them as we age—fat. Unfortunately, a team at Moscow State University has quantified a long-term supposition in the field, that older stem cells, including fat stem cells, are not as good at doing their job as younger ones.

Researchers and purveyors of stem cell “therapies” tout the potential of fat-derived stem cells to help with many diseases. Frankly, some of these claims are logical and some are not. Fat-derived stem cells, called mesenchymal stromal cells (MSCs), are good at doing a few things and not others. They can produce bone, cartilage, and fat, and also act to tamp down inflammation and to stimulate growth of new blood vessels.

This connection to new blood vessels has raised hope that the cells may be of some benefit to patients after a heart attack. Although early tests with donor MSCs have not shown significant amounts of immune system rejection, some researchers hope that a person’s own fat cells might stick around longer after injection and do a better job.

That premise led the Moscow team to collect fat stem cells from patients of different age groups, including some with heart disease and some without. They showed that the older cells, both from people with and without heart disease, produced less of the factor that triggers blood vessel growth. The researchers suggested that using an older patients own, or autologous, stem cells may require testing them in the lab for their activity and finding ways to treat them to enhance their therapeutic potential.

The web news portal Benzinga ran a press release prepared by the journal Stem Cells Translational Medicine that published the results. (This is the journal CIRM helped to found through seed funding during its first three years.) The release quotes the journal’s editor, Anthony Atala, of Wake Forest University:
“These findings are significant because the successful development of cell therapies depends on a thorough understanding of how age may affect the regenerative potential of autologous cells.”
CIRM funds numerous projects taking various approaches to using stem cells for heart repair. They can be found in our heart disease fact sheet.

Anyone interested in learning more about how stem cells could help treat or find therapies for heart disease can join our Google Hangout today at noon PST with two of our grantees and a patient who participated in a stem cell clinical trial.

Don Gibbons

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