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Br Biotechnol J. 2013 Oct 1;3(4):424-457.

Constraining the Pluripotent Fate of Human Embryonic Stem Cells for Tissue Engineering and Cell Therapy - The Turning Point of Cell-Based Regenerative Medicine.

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1
San Diego Regenerative Medicine Institute, San Diego, CA 92109, USA. ; Xcelthera, San Diego, CA 92109, USA.

Abstract

To date, the lack of a clinically-suitable source of engraftable human stem/progenitor cells with adequate neurogenic potential has been the major setback in developing safe and effective cell-based therapies for regenerating the damaged or lost CNS structure and circuitry in a wide range of neurological disorders. Similarly, the lack of a clinically-suitable human cardiomyocyte source with adequate myocardium regenerative potential has been the major setback in regenerating the damaged human heart. Given the limited capacity of the CNS and heart for self-repair, there is a large unmet healthcare need to develop stem cell therapies to provide optimal regeneration and reconstruction treatment options to restore normal tissues and function. Derivation of human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) provides a powerful in vitro model system to investigate molecular controls in human embryogenesis as well as an unlimited source to generate the diversity of human somatic cell types for regenerative medicine. However, realizing the developmental and therapeutic potential of hESC derivatives has been hindered by the inefficiency and instability of generating clinically-relevant functional cells from pluripotent cells through conventional uncontrollable and incomplete multi-lineage differentiation. Recent advances and breakthroughs in hESC research have overcome some major obstacles in bringing hESC therapy derivatives towards clinical applications, including establishing defined culture systems for de novo derivation and maintenance of clinical-grade pluripotent hESCs and lineage-specific differentiation of pluripotent hESCs by small molecule induction. Retinoic acid was identified as sufficient to induce the specification of neuroectoderm direct from the pluripotent state of hESCs and trigger a cascade of neuronal lineage-specific progression to human neuronal progenitors and neurons of the developing CNS in high efficiency, purity, and neuronal lineage specificity by promoting nuclear translocation of the neuronal specific transcription factor Nurr-1. Similarly, nicotinamide was rendered sufficient to induce the specification of cardiomesoderm direct from the pluripotent state of hESCs by promoting the expression of the earliest cardiac-specific transcription factor Csx/Nkx2.5 and triggering progression to cardiac precursors and beating cardiomyocytes with high efficiency. This technology breakthrough enables direct conversion of pluripotent hESCs into a large supply of high purity neuronal cells or heart muscle cells with adequate capacity to regenerate CNS neurons and contractile heart muscles for developing safe and effective stem cell therapies. Transforming pluripotent hESCs into fate-restricted therapy derivatives dramatically increases the clinical efficacy of graft-dependent repair and safety of hESC-derived cellular products. Such milestone advances and medical innovations in hESC research allow generation of a large supply of clinical-grade hESC therapy derivatives targeting for major health problems, bringing cell-based regenerative medicine to a turning point.

KEYWORDS:

Human embryonic stem cell; cell therapy; heart disease; neurological disease; pluripotent; regenerative medicine; stem cell; tissue engineering

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