Could the newly discovered "testis stem cells" be as versatile as embryonic stem cells? Bedford is launching a research initiative to find out.
A major barrier to progress in stem cell therapies is that, similar to organ transplantation, the body rejects cells that are not a good match for the patient.
Surprisingly, stem cells from testis may offer a solution.
In 2008, a German team reported that they successfully derived pluripotent stem cells from adult mouse testis. Because of their unique ability to become any type of cell in the body, pluripotent stem cells hold the promise of cures to many conditions, from diabetes to spinal cord diseases. Then in 2009, two U.S. research teams discovered pluripotent stem cells in human testis.
If pluripotent stem cells can be derived from every human testis, it could launch a new era in stem cell research.
Stem cells derived from human testis could help overcome two of the biggest barriers to stem cell therapies. First, these cells could avoid the controversies of using human eggs and embryos for research. Second, these cells could solve the need for patient-specific stem cells to avoid the rejection that occurs if transferred cells are not a perfect tissue match to the patient's own cells.
Dr. Martin Dym's research team at Georgetown University estimates approximately 1 in 100,000 testis stem cells may be pluripotent. For several decades, it has been known that sperm are abundantly produced (billions per week) in the adult male testis for life, and that the sperm arise from "sperm stem cells" termed spermatogonia. However, the new reports indicate that in addition to the spermatogonia, there are pluripotent stem cells in the testis. To follow up these exciting reports, Bedford Research scientists have launched a new research initiative to answer several important questions: (1) Can stem cells be derived from the testis of all men?
(2) How stable are the testis stem cells in long term culture? (3) Can they prove useful to treat spinal cord diseases, such as injury, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, and multiple sclerosis? (4) Can they prove useful to cure HIV disease?