Guest blogger Alan Trounson — September’s stem cell research highlights

Each month CIRM President Alan Trounson gives his perspective on recently published papers he thinks will be valuable in moving the field of stem cell research forward. This month’s report, along with an archive of past reports, is available on the CIRM website.

Much good science and important science does not qualify as a “breakthrough.” Turning stem cells into heart cells is nothing new. Many teams have done it with both embryonic stem cells and reprogrammed, or induced Pluripotent Stem Cells (iPSC).

However, most the methods for steering stem cells down the path toward heart tissue are not very efficient or don’t produce uniform heart cells. You often end up with a mixed batch of cell types. This month’s literature produced the type of incremental advance that does not wow you, but is exactly the type of thing we need to make the field more practical for patients looking forward.

A team at Kyoto University reported an efficient way to make heart progenitor cells from both embryonic and iPSCs. But more important they found a cell surface marker on those progenitor cells that let them develop an efficient and scalable purification method to get and end product that was just the cells they wanted. But even this step was not easy. They screened 242 antibodies to find this one marker.

My full report of this month’s highlights has some similar incremental advances in improving bone marrow transplant as well as a few other papers I hope you will find interesting.

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