Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Journal: Stem cell reports


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


The rigorous characterization of distinct induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC) derived from multiple reprogramming technologies, somatic sources, and donors is required to understand potential sources of variability and downstream potential. To achieve this goal, the Progenitor Cell Biology Consortium performed comprehensive experimental and genomic analyses of 58 iPSC from ten laboratories generated using a variety of reprogramming genes, vectors, and cells. Associated global molecular characterization studies identified functionally informative correlations in gene expression, DNA methylation, and/or copy-number variation among key developmental and oncogenic regulators as a result of donor, sex, line stability, reprogramming technology, and cell of origin. Furthermore, X-chromosome inactivation in PSC produced highly correlated differences in teratoma-lineage staining and regulator expression upon differentiation. All experimental results, and raw, processed, and metadata from these analyses, including powerful tools, are interactively accessible from a new online portal at to serve as a reusable resource for the stem cell community.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Genetics, Gene expression, Cell, Developmental biology, Stem cell, Cell biology


Stem cell-derived somatic cells represent an unlimited resource for basic and translational science. Although promising, there are significant hurdles that must be overcome. Our focus is on the generation of the major cell type of the human liver, the hepatocyte. Current protocols produce variable populations of hepatocytes that are the product of using undefined components in the differentiation process. This serves as a significant barrier to scale-up and application. To tackle this issue, we designed a defined differentiation process using recombinant laminin substrates to provide instruction. We demonstrate efficient hepatocyte specification, cell organization, and significant improvements in cell function and phenotype. This is driven in part by the suppression of unfavorable gene regulatory networks that control cell proliferation and migration, pluripotent stem cell self-renewal, and fibroblast and colon specification. We believe that this represents a significant advance, moving stem cell-based hepatocytes closer toward biomedical application.

Concepts: DNA, Developmental biology, Stem cell, Cell biology, Liver, Cellular differentiation, Glycogen, Hepatocyte


Fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva (FOP) is a rare disease characterized by progressive ossification of soft tissues, for which there is no effective treatment. Mutations in the bone morphogenetic protein (BMP) type I receptor activin receptor-like kinase 2 (ACVR1/ALK2) are the main cause of FOP. We generated human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs) from FOP patients with the ALK2 R206H mutation. The mutant ALK2 gene changed differentiation efficiencies of hiPSCs into FOP bone-forming progenitors: endothelial cells (ECs) and pericytes. ECs from FOP hiPSCs showed reduced expression of vascular endothelial growth factor receptor 2 and could transform into mesenchymal cells through endothelial-mesenchymal transition. Increased mineralization of pericytes from FOP hiPSCs could be partly inhibited by the ALK2 kinase inhibitor LDN-212854. Thus, differentiated FOP hiPSCs recapitulate some aspects of the disease phenotype in vitro, and they could be instrumental in further elucidating underlying mechanisms of FOP and development of therapeutic drug candidates.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Developmental biology, Stem cell, Stem cells, Cellular differentiation, Induced pluripotent stem cell, Fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva


The blood-brain barrier (BBB) is composed of four cell populations, brain endothelial cells (BECs), pericytes, neurons, and astrocytes. Its role is to precisely regulate the microenvironment of the brain through selective substance crossing. Here we generated an in vitro model of the BBB by differentiating human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs) into all four populations. When the four hiPSC-derived populations were co-cultured, endothelial cells (ECs) were endowed with features consistent with BECs, including a high expression of nutrient transporters (CAT3, MFSD2A) and efflux transporters (ABCA1, BCRP, PGP, MRP5), and strong barrier function based on tight junctions. Neuron-derived Dll1, which activates Notch signaling in ECs, was essential for the BEC specification. We performed in vitro BBB permeability tests and assessed ten clinical drugs by nanoLC-MS/MS, finding a good correlation with the BBB permeability reported in previous cases. This technology should be useful for research on human BBB physiology, pathology, and drug development.

Concepts: Neuron, Brain, Developmental biology, Stem cell, Stem cells, Cell biology, Induced pluripotent stem cell, Blood-brain barrier


The production of germ cells in vitro would open important new avenues for stem biology and human medicine, but the mechanisms of germ cell differentiation are not well understood. The chicken, as a great model for embryology and development, was used in this study to help us explore its regulatory mechanisms. In this study, we reported a comprehensive genome-wide DNA methylation landscape in chicken germ cells, and transcriptomic dynamics was also presented. By uncovering DNA methylation patterns on individual genes, some genes accurately modulated by DNA methylation were found to be associated with cancers and virus infection, e.g., AKT1 and CTNNB1. Chicken-unique markers were also discovered for identifying male germ cells. Importantly, integrated epigenetic mechanisms were explored during male germ cell differentiation, which provides deep insight into the epigenetic processes associated with male germ cell differentiation and possibly improves treatment options to male infertility in animals and humans.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Gene expression, Histone, Developmental biology, Stem cell, Cellular differentiation, Germ cell


The existence of slow-cycling luminal cells in the prostate has been suggested, but their identity and functional properties remain unknown. Using a bigenic mouse model to earmark, isolate, and characterize the quiescent stem-like cells, we identify a label-retaining cell (LRC) population in the luminal cell layer as luminal progenitors. Molecular and biological characterizations show that these luminal LRCs are significantly enriched in the mouse proximal prostate, exhibit relative dormancy, display bipotency in both in vitro and in vivo assays, and express a stem/progenitor gene signature with resemblance to aggressive prostate cancer. Importantly, these LRCs, compared with bulk luminal cells, maintain a lower level of androgen receptor (AR) expression and are less androgen dependent and also castration resistant in vivo. Finally, analysis of phenotypic markers reveals heterogeneity within the luminal progenitor cell pool. Our study establishes luminal LRCs as progenitors that may serve as a cellular origin for castration-resistant prostate cancer.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Genetics, Gene expression, Organism, Prostate cancer, Testosterone, Androgen


Early endoderm progenitors naturally possess robust propagating potential to develop a majority of meter-long gastrointestinal tracts and are therefore considered as a promising source for therapy. Here, we demonstrated the reproducible generation of human CDX2+ posterior gut endoderm cells (PGECs) from five induced pluripotent stem cell clones by manipulating FGF, TGF, and WNT signaling. Transcriptome analysis suggested that putative PGECs harbored an intermediate signature profile between definitive endoderm and organ-specific endoderm. We found that combinatorial EGF, VEGF, FGF2, Chir99021, and A83-01 treatments selectively amplify storable PGECs up to 1021 cell scale without any gene transduction or feeder use. PGECs, compared with induced pluripotent stem cells, showed stable differentiation propensity into multiple endodermal lineages without teratoma formation. Furthermore, transplantation of PGEC-derived liver bud organoids showed therapeutic potential against fulminant liver failure. Together, the robustly amplified PGECs may be a promising cellular source for endoderm-derived organoids in studying human development, modeling disease, and, ultimately, therapy.

Concepts: Cell, Developmental biology, Stem cell, Stem cells, Cell biology, Multipotency, Induced pluripotent stem cell, Pluripotency


Increasing demand for clinical retinal degeneration therapies featuring human ESC/iPSC-derived retinal tissue and cells warrants proof-of-concept studies. Here, we established two mouse models of end-stage retinal degeneration with immunodeficiency, NOG-rd1-2J and NOG-rd10, and characterized disease progress and immunodeficient status. We also transplanted human ESC-derived retinal sheets into NOG-rd1-2J and confirmed their long-term survival and maturation of the structured graft photoreceptor layer, without rejection or tumorigenesis. We recorded light responses from the host ganglion cells using a multi-electrode array system; this result was consistent with whole-mount immunostaining suggestive of host-graft synapse formation at the responding sites. This study demonstrates an application of our mouse models and provides a proof of concept for the clinical use of human ESC-derived retinal sheets.

Concepts: Nervous system, Mice, Prototype, Proof of concept


Chronic inflammatory diseases such as arthritis are characterized by dysregulated responses to pro-inflammatory cytokines such as interleukin-1 (IL-1) and tumor necrosis factor α (TNF-α). Pharmacologic anti-cytokine therapies are often effective at diminishing this inflammatory response but have significant side effects and are used at high, constant doses that do not reflect the dynamic nature of disease activity. Using the CRISPR/Cas9 genome-engineering system, we created stem cells that antagonize IL-1- or TNF-α-mediated inflammation in an autoregulated, feedback-controlled manner. Our results show that genome engineering can be used successfully to rewire endogenous cell circuits to allow for prescribed input/output relationships between inflammatory mediators and their antagonists, providing a foundation for cell-based drug delivery or cell-based vaccines via a rapidly responsive, autoregulated system. The customization of intrinsic cellular signaling pathways in stem cells, as demonstrated here, opens innovative possibilities for safer and more effective therapeutic approaches for a wide variety of diseases.

Concepts: Immune system, Inflammation, Medicine, Interleukin 1, Infection, Rheumatoid arthritis, Anti-inflammatory, Tumor necrosis factor-alpha