Stanford conference: stem cells, the new NIH, and delimiting embryo research

Students from the law and medical schools at Stanford University brought together an impressive group of world-class experts last week to discuss stem cell policy. I’ll describe some (very select) highlights over the next few blogs. Check the site for the Stanford Journal of Law Science & Policy over the next few weeks for powerpoints presentations and audiorecordings.  Read more

Stanford conference: patient-heroes of clinical research

“When you think you have a policy, you’re too late.” That’s the opinion of Pearl O’Rourke, who directs human research affairs at Partner Healthcare Systems She was referring to the pace of research in the stem cell field and the need to fashion policies to protect subjects. Embryonic stem cell research oversight committees are becoming too much of a catchall, she worries.  Read more

Stanford conference: Geron’s 345 patents and reasons for stem cell intellectual property

Perhaps more confusing than making and using stem cells are the intellectual property rules governing such use. In addition to the licenses his company has attained from the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation, David Earp, patent counsel for Geron, said that his company had filed more than 300 patents covering a variety of areas: undifferentiated cells; differentiated cells; methods to scale, differentiate and process cells; and ways to grow cells without blood products and feeder layers.  Read more

A small molecule replaces Sox2, and honors baseball

The standard technique for creating make differentiated cells behave like embryonic stem cells uses viruses to insert the genes cMyc, Klf4, Oct4, and Sox2 into cells, but adding these genes to cells makes them less predictable and more likely to form tumors. Researchers have been able to reprogram neural stem cell using only Oct4, but these cells are not readily available from patient biopsies and so researchers are searching for alternate techniques. New work published in Cell Stem Cell shows that a small druglike molecule can effectively replace two of the four genes typically used to generate induced pluriptotent stem cells.  Read more

Notes on a neural stem cell conference

Editor’s note: The stem cell world has been rich with conferences in the past week or so. I hope to have very brief notes on Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory and Stanford’s interdisciplinary program on stem cell policy over the next few days. For the recent World Stem Cell Conference in Baltimore, please check for Elie Dolgin’s posts in In the Field.  Read more

More stem cells in Lou Gehrig’s disease

Shortly after my coverage of the FDA’s approval for NeuralStem’s stem-cell trial for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis appeared on the Niche, Letizia Mazzini and Franca Fagioli of Eastern Piedmont University contacted me to tell me about their team’s work using mesenchymal stem cells for the same disease. While Neuralstem is moving forward with neural stem cells, Mazzini and colleagues have been exploring the use of mesenchymal stem cells derived from the patient who will receive them. She has recently published results of a Phase I trial as well as a review of stem-cell approaches in ALS. Unfortunately, I learned of this work only after I’d posted.  Read more

Stem cell vetting raises concerns, confusion

After years hearing scientists complain that the U.S. federal government funded research on too few human embryonic stem cell lines, Lana Skirboll, who directs the Office of Science Policy at the U.S. National Institutes of Health, has something to tell the stem cell community: “the ball is in their court.” The NIH announced on Monday that it would be accepting applications to determine whether a line is eligible for funding. The process is not without risks: some scientists are quietly concerned that their informed consent procedures could come under criticism, or that they could lose access to non-federal sources of funding if the lines they wish to work with aren’t cleared by the NIH.  Read more