“High Profile Diseases” are written by individual NPRC Core Scientists who are experts in the specific subject of each article. Before publication on the website, each article is reviewed by representatives of all seven NPRCs.
Jordana Lenon (WNPRC)
The National Primate Research Centers have been responsible for groundbreaking advances in pluripotent stem cell research since 1995. (See timeline.) Scientists use pluripotent stem cells as a basic research tool to understand the human body, for pharmaceutical development and drug toxicity testing, to screen for environmental compounds that may be harmful to humans, and for preclinical tissue and organ transplant studies. Embryonic stem cells come from leftover lab-fertilized embryos donated by patients at in vitro fertilization clinics. Induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS cells) are genetically reprogrammed skin, fat or other mature cells that act like embryonic stem cells but can be derived from an individual’s own cells to study and potentially treat a particular genetic or degenerative disease in that individual.
As pluripotent stem cell research moves from bench to bedside, large animals such as nonhuman primates, pigs and sheep are becoming more important for preclinical studies. For example, researchers are using heart, bone, and retinal cells grown from both ES and iPS cells to regenerate healthy cardiac tissue after myocardial infarction, lost bone and cartilage due to joint injury or degeneration, and retinal cells to restore vision in patients with juvenile and age-related macular degeneration.
Pluripotent stem cells can also be used to grow mesenchymal stem cells, which are normally found in bone marrow but are difficult to extract in large quantities for basic and preclinical research. Clinicians hope to grow large numbers of mesenchymal stem cells from a patient’s own iPS cells, to regenerate bone marrow for cancer treatment: There are not enough matched bone marrow donors and even autologous (self) bone marrow extraction, cryopreservation and transplant after cancer treatment is a risky process and not always successful. Mesenchymal stem cells and related types of stem cells are showing potential for therapeutic, protective and regenerative benefits in other tissues and organs as well.
NPRC scientists are also using iPS cells to grow dopaminergic neurons for researching Parkinson’s disease therapies, pancreatic beta cells for diabetes studies, and motor neurons to study ALS. One NPRC scientist is interested in using iPS cells as a source of cells to produce oocytes for fertility treatment in cancer survivors who suffer from ovarian insufficiency. Nonhuman primate models will be the critical stepping stone between many of these basic stem cell research studies and human treatments.
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November 6, 2018
The Cells that Changed the World
September 11, 2018
A starring role for nonhuman primates in the stem cell story
March 20, 2018
How human embryonic stem cells sparked a revolution
November 18, 2017
A decade after stem cell feat, research ramps up
December 2, 2016
Pluripotent stem cells: the last 10 years
October 18, 2016
Scientists developing MRI-guided stem cell delivery method
September 29, 2016
Thomson honored for stem cell research legacy
September 5, 2014
Disease in a dish approach could aid Huntington's disease discovery
April 30, 2014
Scientists regenerate heart muscle in primates