Researchers from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute and the University of Cambridge (both Cambridge, UK) have described a new method for producing millions of human brain and muscle cells in only a few days. The method, OPTi-OX, works by reprogramming stem cells in order to produce a large number of functional and identical cells. This research was recently published in Stem Cell Reports.
Current methods for producing brain cells from stem cells can take between 3 and 20 weeks, whereas OPTi-OX can produce the brain cells in a matter of days. The ability to produce as many cells as desired combined with the speed of the development gives an advantage over other methods.
"What is really exciting is we only needed to change a few ingredients – transcription factors – to produce the exact cells we wanted in less than a week. We over-expressed factors that make stem cells directly convert into the desired cells, thereby bypassing development and shortening the process to just a few days," stated study author Ludovic Vallier (Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute).
OPTi-OX opens the door to drug discovery and potential therapeutic applications in which large numbers of cells are needed. The method may also allow the production of new cell types that may be uncovered by the Human Cell Atlas.
"When we receive a wealth of new information on the discovery of new cells from large scale projects, like the Human Cell Atlas, it means we'll be able to apply this method to produce any cell type in the body, but in a dish," explained joint first author Daniel Ortmann (University of Cambridge).
"Neurons produced in this study are already being used to understand brain development and function. This method opens the doors to producing all sorts of hard-to-access cells and tissues so we can better our understanding of diseases and the response of these tissues to newly developed therapeutics," concluded lead author Mark Kotter (University of Cambridge).
Written by Adam Tarring
Pawlowski M, Ortmann D, Bertero A et al. Inducible and deterministic forward programming of human pluripotent stem cells into neurons, skeletal myocytes, and oligodendrocytes. Stem Cell Reports. doi: 10.1016/j.stemcr.2017.02.016 (2017) (Epub ahead of print); https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/03/170323125533.htm