Human embryonic stem cells are touted as pluripotent cells, that are able to differentiate into any human cells. Hence is the idea of replacing diseased cells–such as beta cells in diabetes or dopaminergic cells in Parkinson’s–with new ones from the stem cell line. But how about creating cancer-killing cells from the stem cell line, and opening a new front in combating the big C? Well, a team of scientists from the University of Minnesota has done it:
For the first time, stem cell researchers at the University of Minnesota have coaxed human embryonic stem cells to create cancer-killing cells in the laboratory, paving the way for future treatments for various types of cancers (or tumors). The research will be published in the October 15 issue of the Journal of Immunology.
Researchers generated “natural killer” cells from the human embryonic stem cells. As part of the immune system, natural killer cells normally are present in the bloodstream and play a role in defending the body against infection and against some cancers. The natural killer cells produced by the researchers were found capable of destroying certain human cancer cells in vitro (in the test tube).
“This is the first published research to show the ability to make cells from human embryonic stem cells that are able to treat and fight cancer, especially leukemias and lymphomas,” says Dan Kaufman, assistant professor of medicine in the Stem Cell Institute and Department of Medicine and lead author of the study…
The results also provided the researchers with a model of how the immune system develops.
Next, the researchers will test whether the human embryonic stem cell-derived natural killer cells can target cancer cells in animal models.
This research was done on two of the federally approved embryonic stem cell lines.