Year 1

Public Summary for: CIRM New Cell Line Project – Progress Report.

Our research team has been working over the last year on developing new human stem cell lines that are specifically useful for studying human diseases and developing new therapeutic strategies. Human embryonic stem (hES) cells were first established in 1998 and in the past decade have been shown to be capable to differentiating to a vast array of different cell types. This full developmental potential is termed pluripotency. Until recently these were the only established human cell type that could be robustly grown in the laboratory setting and still maintain full pluripotent developmental potential. In November of 1997, a new type of human pluripotent cell was created. By turning on a set of 4 genes, researchers succeeded in reprogramming human skin cells back into a cell type that appeared to have very similar properties and potential as the hES cell. These new stem cells are called induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells in order to keep the name distinct from their embryonic derived counterpart. One of the scientific limitations of hES cells is the impracticality of generating patient or disease specific stem cell lines. This opportunity now becomes theoretically practical with the advent of human iPS cell line generation. We report here on significant progress demonstrating the practicality of generating disease-linked cellular models of human diseases.

We have identified 2 specific human neurological diseases that have a known, or strongly suggested genetic component, and have set about to generate disease-linked iPS cell lines. We have obtained skin cell samples from patients with these neurological diseases and have successfully reprogrammed them back to iPS cells. These disease-linked pluripotent stem cells have been carefully characterized and we have demonstrated that they do indeed behave very similar to existing hES cells and also to the genetically healthy control iPS cell lines that we have generated. Therefore the disease phenotype is not detrimental to reprogramming or proliferation as a stem cell. Furthermore, we have succeeded in coaxing these disease-linked iPS cells to turn into specific types of human neurons, the very cells that are suspected to be involved in the neurological disorders. We now have established a viable model for studying human neural disorders in the laboratory, and have already observed some potentially important functional differences between the disease-linked and control iPS generated neurons. In the coming year we will be evaluating the differences between the disease-linked and control neurons and investigating potential therapeutic approaches to stop or reverse the defects.

We have also been working on developing new methods for generating iPS cells that will make them more useful in clinical or pre-clinical settings where it is important that the original set of 4 genes used to reprogram the skin cells are removed once they have become iPS cells. Significant progress has been made in this regard and will be completed in the coming year. Looking forward we will also be applying this approach to generate human disease-linked iPS cells for specific hematological (blood) related disorders. The derivation of iPS-based models of hematological disorders will allow us develop gene therapy approaches to correct the disease causing defects and establish proof of principle for therapeutic approaches.