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Concept: Embryonic stem cell


Organ replacement regenerative therapy is purported to enable the replacement of organs damaged by disease, injury or aging in the foreseeable future. Here we demonstrate fully functional hair organ regeneration via the intracutaneous transplantation of a bioengineered pelage and vibrissa follicle germ. The pelage and vibrissae are reconstituted with embryonic skin-derived cells and adult vibrissa stem cell region-derived cells, respectively. The bioengineered hair follicle develops the correct structures and forms proper connections with surrounding host tissues such as the epidermis, arrector pili muscle and nerve fibres. The bioengineered follicles also show restored hair cycles and piloerection through the rearrangement of follicular stem cells and their niches. This study thus reveals the potential applications of adult tissue-derived follicular stem cells as a bioengineered organ replacement therapy.

Concepts: Embryonic stem cell, Cell division, Organ, Stem cell, Organelle, Skin, Cell, Organ transplant


As social scientists have investigated the political and social factors influencing public opinion in science-related policy debates, there has been growing interest in the implications of this research for public communication and outreach. Given the level of political polarization in the United States, much of the focus has been on partisan differences in public opinion, the strategies employed by political leaders and advocates that promote those differences, and the counter-strategies for overcoming them. Yet this focus on partisan differences tends to overlook the processes by which core beliefs about science and society impact public opinion and how these schema are often activated by specific frames of reference embedded in media coverage and popular discourse. In this study, analyzing cross-sectional, nationally representative survey data collected between 2002 and 2010, we investigate the relative influence of political partisanship and science-related schema on Americans' support for embryonic stem cell research. In comparison to the influence of partisan identity, our findings suggest that generalized beliefs about science and society were more chronically accessible, less volatile in relation to media attention and focusing events, and an overall stronger influence on public opinion. Classifying respondents into four unique audience groups based on their beliefs about science and society, we additionally find that individuals within each of these groups split relatively evenly by partisanship but differ on other important dimensions. The implications for public engagement and future research on controversies related to biomedical science are discussed.

Concepts: Political philosophy, Medical research, Science, Social sciences, Sociology, Society, Stem cell, Embryonic stem cell


Nonviral conversion of skin or blood cells into clinically useful human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSC) occurs in only rare fractions (∼0.001%-0.5%) of donor cells transfected with non-integrating reprogramming factors. Pluripotency induction of developmentally immature stem-progenitors is generally more efficient than differentiated somatic cell targets. However, the nature of augmented progenitor reprogramming remains obscure, and its potential has not been fully explored for improving the extremely slow pace of non-integrated reprogramming. Here, we report highly optimized four-factor reprogramming of lineage-committed cord blood (CB) myeloid progenitors with bulk efficiencies of ∼50% in purified episome-expressing cells. Lineage-committed CD33(+)CD45(+)CD34(-) myeloid cells and not primitive hematopoietic stem-progenitors were the main targets of a rapid and nearly complete non-integrated reprogramming. The efficient conversion of mature myeloid populations into NANOG(+)TRA-1-81(+) hiPSC was mediated by synergies between hematopoietic growth factor (GF), stromal activation signals, and episomal Yamanaka factor expression. Using a modular bioinformatics approach, we demonstrated that efficient myeloid reprogramming correlated not to increased proliferation or endogenous Core factor expressions, but to poised expression of GF-activated transcriptional circuits that commonly regulate plasticity in both hematopoietic progenitors and embryonic stem cells (ESC). Factor-driven conversion of myeloid progenitors to a high-fidelity pluripotent state was further accelerated by soluble and contact-dependent stromal signals that included an implied and unexpected role for Toll receptor-NFκB signaling. These data provide a paradigm for understanding the augmented reprogramming capacity of somatic progenitors, and reveal that efficient induced pluripotency in other cell types may also require extrinsic activation of a molecular framework that commonly regulates self-renewal and differentiation in both hematopoietic progenitors and ESC.

Concepts: Cell biology, Pluripotency, Developmental biology, Cellular differentiation, Stem cells, Embryonic stem cell, Induced pluripotent stem cell, Stem cell


Human embryonic stem cell (hESC)-derived pancreatic progenitor cells effectively reverse hyperglycemia in rodent models of type 1 diabetes, but their capacity to treat type 2 diabetes has not been reported. An immunodeficient model of type 2 diabetes was generated by high-fat diet (HFD) feeding in SCID-beige mice. Exposure to HFDs did not impact the maturation of macroencapsulated pancreatic progenitor cells into glucose-responsive insulin-secreting cells following transplantation, and the cell therapy improved glucose tolerance in HFD-fed transplant recipients after 24 weeks. However, since diet-induced hyperglycemia and obesity were not fully ameliorated by transplantation alone, a second cohort of HFD-fed mice was treated with pancreatic progenitor cells combined with one of three antidiabetic drugs. All combination therapies rapidly improved body weight and co-treatment with either sitagliptin or metformin improved hyperglycemia after only 12 weeks. Therefore, a stem cell-based therapy may be effective for treating type 2 diabetes, particularly in combination with antidiabetic drugs.

Concepts: Sulfonylurea, Obesity, Metformin, Diabetes mellitus type 2, Embryonic stem cell, Insulin, Stem cell, Diabetes mellitus


Diabetes is a chronic debilitating disease that results from insufficient production of insulin from pancreatic β-cells. Islet cell replacement can effectively treat diabetes but is currently severely limited by the reliance upon cadaveric donor tissue. We have developed a protocol to efficiently differentiate commercially available human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) in vitro into a highly enriched PDX1+ pancreatic progenitor cell population that further develops in vivo to mature pancreatic endocrine cells. Immature pancreatic precursor cells were transplanted into immunodeficient mice with streptozotocin-induced diabetes, and glycemia was initially controlled with exogenous insulin. As graft-derived insulin levels increased over time, diabetic mice were weaned from exogenous insulin and human C-peptide secretion was eventually regulated by meal and glucose challenges. Similar differentiation of pancreatic precursor cells was observed after transplant in immunodeficient rats. Throughout the in vivo maturation period hESC-derived endocrine cells exhibited gene and protein expression profiles that were remarkably similar to the developing human fetal pancreas. Our findings support the feasibility of using differentiated hESCs as an alternative to cadaveric islets for treating patients with diabetes.

Concepts: Glucose, Cell, Pancreas, Stem cell, Islets of Langerhans, Cellular differentiation, Embryonic stem cell, Insulin


Proteins endogenously secreted by human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) and those present in hESC culture medium are critical regulators of hESC self-renewal and differentiation. Current MS-based approaches for identifying secreted proteins rely predominantly on MS analysis of cell culture supernatants. Here we show that targeted proteomics of secretory pathway organelles is a powerful alternate approach for interrogating the cellular secretome. We have developed procedures to obtain subcellular fractions from mouse embryonic fibroblasts (MEFs) and hESCs that are enriched in secretory pathway organelles while ensuring retention of the secretory cargo. MS analysis of these fractions from hESCs cultured in MEF conditioned medium (MEF-CM) or MEFs exposed to hESC medium revealed 99 and 129 proteins putatively secreted by hESCs and MEFs, respectively. Of these, 53 and 62 proteins have been previously identified in cell culture supernatants of MEFs and hESCs, respectively, thus establishing the validity of our approach. Furthermore, 76 and 37 putatively secreted proteins identified in this study in MEFs and hESCs, respectively, have not been reported in previous MS analyses. The identification of low abundance secreted proteins via MS analysis of cell culture supernatants typically necessitates the use of altered culture conditions such as serum-free medium. However, an altered medium formulation might directly influence the cellular secretome. Indeed, we observed significant differences between the abundances of several secreted proteins in subcellular fractions isolated from hESCs cultured in MEF-CM and those exposed to unconditioned hESC medium for 24 h. In contrast, targeted proteomics of secretory pathway organelles does not require the use of customized media. We expect that our approach will be particularly valuable in two contexts highly relevant to hESC biology: obtaining a temporal snapshot of proteins secreted in response to a differentiation trigger, and identifying proteins secreted by cells that are isolated from a heterogeneous population.

Concepts: Cellular differentiation, Golgi apparatus, Endoplasmic reticulum, Cell culture, Cell biology, Cell, Stem cell, Embryonic stem cell


In a recent study published in this journal it was claimed that the rate of publications from US-based authors in the human embryonic stem cell (hESC) research field was slowing or even declining from 2008 to 2010. It was assumed that this is the result of long-term effects of the Bush administration’s funding policy for hESC research and the uncertain policy environment of recent years. In the present study, we analyzed a pool of more than 1,700 original hESC research papers published world-wide from 2007 to 2011. In contrast to the previous study, our results do not support the hypothesis of a decline in the productivity of US-based research but rather confirm a nearly unchanged leading position of US research in the hESC field with respect to both publication numbers and impact of research. Moreover, we analyzed about 500 papers reporting original research involving human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs) published through 2011 and found a dominant position of US research in this research field as well.

Concepts: Martin Evans, Pluripotency, Cell biology, Academic publishing, Stem cells, Induced pluripotent stem cell, Embryonic stem cell, Stem cell


While human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) and human embryonal carcinoma cells (hECCs) have been studied extensively at the levels of the genome, transcriptome, proteome and epigenome our knowledge of their corresponding metabolomes is limited. Here, we present the metabolic signatures of hESCs and hESCs obtained by untargeted gas chromatography coupled to mass spectrometry (GC-MS). Whilst some metabolites are common to both cell types, representing the self-renewal and house-keeping signatures, others were either higher (e.g., octadecenoic acid, glycerol-3-phosphate, 4-hydroxyproline) or lower (e.g., glutamic acid, mannitol, malic acid, GABA) in hESCs (H9) compared to hECCs (NTERA2), these represent cell type specific signatures. Further, our combined results of GC-MS and microarray based gene expression profiling of undifferentiated and OCT4-depleted hESCs are consistent with the Warburg effect which is increased glycolysis in embryonic cells and tumor cells in the presence of O(2) while oxidative phosphorylation (OXPHOS) is impaired or even shut down. RNAi-based OCT4 knock down mediated differentiation resulted in the activation of the poised OXPHOS machinery by expressing missing key proteins such as NDUFC1, UQCRB and COX, increase in TCA cycle activity and decreased lactate metabolism. These results shed light on the metabolite layer of pluripotent stem cells and could potentially establish novel metabolic markers of self renewal and pluripotency.

Concepts: Embryonic stem cell, Oxidative phosphorylation, Adenosine triphosphate, Developmental biology, Cell, Protein, Metabolism, Stem cell


Human multipotent skin derived precursor cells (SKPs) are traditionally sourced from dissociated dermal tissues; therefore, donor availability may become limiting. Here we demonstrate that both normal and diseased adult human dermal fibroblasts (DF) pre-cultured in conventional monolayers are capable of forming SKPs (termed m-SKPs). Moreover, we show that these m-SKPs can be passaged and that cryopreservation of original fibroblast monolayer cultures does not reduce m-SKP yield; however, extensive monolayer passaging does. Like SKPs generated from dissociated dermis, these m-SKPs expressed nestin, fibronectin and versican at the protein level. At the transcriptional level, m-SKPs derived from normal adult human DF, expressed neural crest stem cell markers such as p75NTR, embryonic stem cell markers such as Nanog and the mesenchymal stem cell marker Dermo-1. Furthermore, appropriate stimuli induced m-SKPs to differentiate down either mesenchymal or neural lineages resulting in lipid accumulation, calcification and S100β or β-III tubulin expression (with multiple processes). m-SKP yield was greater from neonatal foreskin cultures compared to those from adult DF cultures; however, the former showed a greater decrease in m-SKP forming capacity after extensive monolayer passaging. m-SKP yield was greater from adult DF cultures expressing more alpha-smooth muscle actin (αSMA). In turn, elevated αSMA expression correlated with cells originating from specimens isolated from biopsies containing more terminal hair follicles; however, αSMA expression was lost upon m-SKP formation. Others have shown that dissociated human hair follicle dermal papilla (DP) are a highly enriched source of SKPs. However, conversely and unexpectedly, monolayer cultured human hair follicle DP cells failed to form m-SKPs whereas those from the murine vibrissae follicles did. Collectively, these findings reveal the potential for using expanded DF cultures to produce SKPs, the heterogeneity of SKP forming potential of skin from distinct anatomical locations and ages, and question the progenitor status of human hair follicle DP cells.

Concepts: Protein, Skin, Hair follicle, Embryonic stem cell, Hair, Stem cell marker, Stem cells, Stem cell


Epidermal squamous cell carcinoma is among the most common cancers in humans. These tumors are comprised of phenotypically diverse populations of cells that display varying potential for proliferation and differentiation. An important goal is identifying cells from this population that drive tumor formation. To enrich for tumor-forming cells, cancer cells were grown as spheroids in non-attached conditions. We show that spheroid-selected cells form faster growing and larger tumors in immune-compromised mice as compared to non-selected cells. Moreover, spheroid-selected cells gave rise to tumors following injection of as few as one hundred cells, suggesting these cells have enhanced tumor-forming potential. Cells isolated from spheroid-selected tumors retain an enhanced ability to grow as spheroids when grown in non-attached culture conditions. Thus, these tumor-forming cells retain their phenotype following in vivo passage as tumors. Detailed analysis reveals that spheroid-selected cultures are highly enriched for expression of epidermal stem cell and embryonic stem cell markers, including aldehyde dehydrogenase 1, keratin 15, CD200, keratin 19, Oct4, Bmi-1, Ezh2 and trimethylated histone H3. These studies indicate that a subpopulation of cells that possess stem cell-like properties and express stem cell markers can be derived from human epidermal cancer cells and that these cells display enhanced ability to drive tumor formation.

Concepts: Cell division, Histone, Embryonic stem cell, Gene, Tumor, Stem cell, Cancer, Squamous cell carcinoma