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


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


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


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


Recent success in functional recovery by photoreceptor precursor transplantation in dysfunctional retina has led to an increased interest in using embryonic stem cell (ESC) or induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC)-derived retinal progenitors to treat retinal degeneration. However, cell-based therapies for end-stage degenerative retinas that have lost the outer nuclear layer (ONL) are still a big challenge. In the present study, by transplanting mouse iPSC-derived retinal tissue (miPSC retina) in the end-stage retinal-degeneration model (rd1), we visualized the direct contact between host bipolar cell terminals and the presynaptic terminal of graft photoreceptors by gene labeling, showed light-responsive behaviors in transplanted rd1 mice, and recorded responses from the host retina with transplants by ex vivo micro-electroretinography and ganglion cell recordings using a multiple-electrode array system. Our data provides a proof of concept for transplanting ESC/iPSC retinas to restore vision in end-stage retinal degeneration.

Concepts: Eye, Stem cells, Photoreceptor cell, Induced pluripotent stem cell, Embryonic stem cell, Retina, Neuron, Stem cell


Mutation of the Gap Junction Beta 2 gene (GJB2) encoding connexin 26 (CX26) is the most frequent cause of hereditary deafness worldwide and accounts for up to 50% of non-syndromic sensorineural hearing loss cases in some populations. Therefore, cochlear CX26-gap junction plaque (GJP)-forming cells such as cochlear supporting cells are thought to be the most important therapeutic target for the treatment of hereditary deafness. The differentiation of pluripotent stem cells into cochlear CX26-GJP-forming cells has not been reported. Here, we detail the development of a novel strategy to differentiate induced pluripotent stem cells into functional CX26-GJP-forming cells that exhibit spontaneous ATP- and hemichannel-mediated Ca(2+) transients typical of the developing cochlea. Furthermore, these cells from CX26-deficient mice recapitulated the drastic disruption of GJPs, the primary pathology of GJB2-related hearing loss. These in vitro models should be useful for establishing inner-ear cell therapies and drug screening that target GJB2-related hearing loss.

Concepts: DNA, Otology, Developmental biology, Tinnitus, Cochlea, Hearing impairment, Stem cell, Cochlear implant


There is an ongoing controversy as to whether major histocompatibility complex (MHC) matching is a solution for allogeneic stem cell transplantation. In the present study, we established retinal pigment epithelial (RPE) cells from induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) in MHC homozygote donors. We observed no rejection signs in iPSC-derived RPE allografts of MHC-matched animal models without immunosuppression, whereas there were immune attacks around the graft and retinal tissue damage in MHC-mismatched models. In an immunohistochemical examination of MHC-mismatched allografts, the transplanted RPE sheets/cells were located in the subretinal space, but the RPE exhibited inflammatory and hypertrophic changes, and many inflammatory cells, e.g., Iba1(+) cells, MHC class II(+) cells, and CD3(+) T cells, invaded the graft area. Conversely, these inflammatory cells poorly infiltrated the area around the transplanted retina if MHC-matched allografts were used. Thus, cells derived from MHC homozygous donors could be used to treat retinal diseases in histocompatible recipients.

Concepts: Cell biology, Stem cells, Retinal pigment epithelium, Organ transplant, Induced pluripotent stem cell, Major histocompatibility complex, Retina, Stem cell


Allografts of retinal pigment epithelial (RPE) cells have been considered for the treatment of ocular diseases. We recently started the transplantation of induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC)-derived RPE cells for patients with age-related macular degeneration (autogenic grafts). However, there are at least two problems with this approach: (1) high cost, and (2) uselessness for acute patients. To resolve these issues, we established RPE cells from induced iPSCs in HLA homozygote donors. In vitro, human T cells directly recognized allogeneic iPSC-derived RPE cells that expressed HLA class I/II antigens. However, these T cells failed to respond to HLA-A, -B, and -DRB1-matched iPSC-derived RPE cells from HLA homozygous donors. Because of the lack of T cell response to iPSC-derived RPE cells from HLA homozygous donors, we can use these allogeneic iPSC-derived RPE cells in future clinical trials if the recipient and donor are HLA matched.

Concepts: Stem cells, Cell biology, Organ transplant, Induced pluripotent stem cell, Macular degeneration, Retinal pigment epithelium, Retina, Stem cell


Current efforts to repair damaged or diseased mammalian retinas are inefficient and largely incapable of fully restoring vision. Conversely, the zebrafish retina is capable of spontaneous regeneration upon damage using Müller glia (MG)-derived progenitors. Understanding how zebrafish MG initiate regeneration may help develop new treatments that prompt mammalian retinas to regenerate. We show that inhibition of γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA) signaling facilitates initiation of MG proliferation. GABA levels decrease following damage, and MG are positioned to detect decreased ambient levels and undergo dedifferentiation. Using pharmacological and genetic approaches, we demonstrate that GABAA receptor inhibition stimulates regeneration in undamaged retinas while activation inhibits regeneration in damaged retinas.

Concepts: Ligand-gated ion channel, GABA receptor, Neuron, Benzodiazepine, Enzyme inhibitor, GABAA receptor, Retina, Zebrafish


Conventional generation of stem cells from human blastocysts produces a developmentally advanced, or primed, stage of pluripotency. In vitro resetting to a more naive phenotype has been reported. However, whether the reset culture conditions of selective kinase inhibition can enable capture of naive epiblast cells directly from the embryo has not been determined. Here, we show that in these specific conditions individual inner cell mass cells grow into colonies that may then be expanded over multiple passages while retaining a diploid karyotype and naive properties. The cells express hallmark naive pluripotency factors and additionally display features of mitochondrial respiration, global gene expression, and genome-wide hypomethylation distinct from primed cells. They transition through primed pluripotency into somatic lineage differentiation. Collectively these attributes suggest classification as human naive embryonic stem cells. Human counterparts of canonical mouse embryonic stem cells would argue for conservation in the phased progression of pluripotency in mammals.

Concepts: Embryonic stem cell, DNA, Inner cell mass, Cell, Gene, Cell biology, Developmental biology, Stem cell