A group of scientists headed by Professor Morgon Alexander from Nottingham’ School of Pharmacy have declared the discovery of artificial acrylate polymers that enables automated stem cell reproduction while retaining their pluripotency.
They have announced this invention in a paper published in the September issue of ‘Nature Materials’ journal. This innovation will help a wide range of stem cell factories to meet their huge demand for new stem cell treatments to treat a variety of diseases.
The existing method of growing stem cells without eluding their pluripotency involves animal derived products which enables these stem cells to mature into any variety of adult stem cell, be it a cardio monocyte for cardio attack treatments or a bone cell for performing graft operations. But this method involves a huge risk of cross-species contamination and scaling up of productivity is not easy. Hence an alternate method employing a synthetic material would be needed for providing various treatments.
Prof Alexander has stated that this major breakthrough will have noteworthy contributions for a broad range of stem cell therapies like muscle tear, cardiac failure, Parkinson’, Huntington’s etc. He added that this automated method of growing stem cells will be affordable and safe for the patients. Other members of this research team include Bob Langer, Dan Anderson, Rudolf Jaenisch and Krystyn Van Vliet at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
The scientists utilized polymer microarrays which are typical scientific glass slides comprising 1700 polymer dots on its surface. Stem cells are labeled with a fluorescent material, thereby enabling them to be easily viewed while planting on the polymer dots. It also helps to determine which polymers were supporting the maximum growth in addition to retaining the pluripotency. Also the impact of these polymers was also studied by examining the spots of the microarray.
Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) funded £2.3 million for further enhancing the acrylate polymers for developing a completely automated cell- culture system by utilizing scalable robotic cell- culture techniques developed by Chris Denning and Lorraine Young of University’ Wolfson Centre for Stem Cells, Tissue Engineering and Modelling (STEM).