Stem Cells & Fertility

New research reveals that certain embryonic stem cells may substitute human eggs in conception,

Technion researchers from the Bruce and Ruth Rappaport Faculty of Medicine found that cells in the fetal Amnion membrane may be a source of human eggs, according to dissertation of doctoral student Ayelet Evron mentored by the Dean of the Faculty, Professor Eliezer Shalev.

The Amnion membrane constitutes a part of the inner layer of the amniotic sac or “bag of waters” , which protects the fetus throughout the pregnancy period. Typically, upon being ruptured during the birth, and/or directly after birth, both the placenta and membranes come out of the body.

Amnion membrane cells develop at the very early stages of the life of the fetus (on the eighth day after fertilization) and are known to maintain the plasticity of embryonic cells prior to cellular differentiation. These cells have the potential of joining any one of the cell groups that later develop into different tissues in the body. To date, the capability of Amnion membrane cells to differentiate into germ cells with specific gene markers that develop into human eggs, has never been documented.

The research work was undertaken in collaboration with Dr. Shlomit Goldman at the research laboratory of Women’s Division of Gynecology and Obstetrics in the Emek Medical Center (in Afula). It uncovered for the first time that when growing hamnion membrane cells on growth medium also used in IVF (in vitro fertilization), these cells display specific signs of gene expression like those of germ cells, which develop into human eggs, at both the gene and protein levels, as well as in appearance (resembling large round cells that resemble eggs). Later, the cells express markers that mimic the characteristic of markers in human egg development, which enable division reduction upon entry (division that is essential in human egg development), and remain in this state.

Researchers still face a major challenge – for these cells to be used in substitute of human eggs, they need to properly complete the reduction process upon entry. Only after finding a solution to this problem it will be possible to check whether or not Amnion membrane cells may be used as a new source for human eggs that would be suitable for women who cannot produce them on their own.

New Life – The Healing Promise of Stem Cells

Diseases and conditions where stem cell treatment is promising or emerging. Source: Wikipedia

Since the late 1990s, the Technion has been at the forefront of stem-cell research. Stem cells are the master keys because they can be converted into many different kinds of cells, opening many different doors to potential cures and treatments. Beating heart tissue is one of the major stem cell achievements from the Technion.

Healing the Heart

Technion scientists showed this year that they can turn skin tissue from heart attack patients into fresh, beating heart cells in a first step towards a new therapy for the condition. The procedure may eventually help scores of people who survive heart attacks but are severely debilitated by damage to the organ.
By creating new heart cells from a patient’s own tissues, doctors avoid the risk of the cells being rejected by the immune system once they are transplanted.Though the cells were not considered safe enough to put back into patients, they appeared healthy in the laboratory and beat in time with other cells in animal models.
“We have shown that it’s possible to take skin cells from an elderly patient with advanced heart failure and end up with his own beating cells in a laboratory dish that are healthy and young – the equivalent to the stage his heart cells were in when he was just born,” Prof. Lior Gepstein told the British national paper The Guardian.

Pancreatic Tissue for Diabetes

Prof. Shulamit Levenberg of the Technion, who has spent many years trying to create replacement human organs by building them up on a “scaffold,” has created tissue from the insulin-producing islets of Langerhans in the pancreas surrounded by a three-dimensional network of blood vessels.The tissue she and her team created has significant advantages over traditional transplant material that has been harvested from healthy pancreatic tissue.

“We have shown that the three-dimensional environment and the engineered blood vessels support the islets – and this support is important for the survival of the islets and for their insulin secretion activity”, says Prof. Levenberg of the Department of Biomedical Engineering.

 

In the Bones

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In collaboration with industry and global research partners, Technion scientists have grown human bone from stem cells in a laboratory. The development opens the way for patients to have broken bones repaired or even replaced with entire new ones grown outside the body from a patient’s own cells. The researchers started with stem cells taken from fat tissue. It took around a month to grow them into sections of fully-formed living human bone up to a couple of inches long. The success was reported by the UK national paper The Telegraph.

 

Stem Cell Proliferation

““These are our next generation of scientists and Nobel Laureates,” says Prof. Dror Seliktar, of the Department of Biomedical Engineering. “The future of the Technion relies on that.”

Seliktar and his research team at the Lokey Center for Biomaterials and Tissue Regeneration at Technion is working on a new material for the mass production of stem cells to make their commercial use viable on an industrial scale.

“In the biotechnology industries, there is an inherent need for expanding populations of stem cells for therapeutic purposes,” says Seliktar, who has published over 50 papers in the field, won over 14 awards and launched one of Israel’s promising biotech startups, Regentis Biomaterials.

Read more.

Prof. Joseph Itskovitz-Eldor of the Faculty of Medicine was on the international team that in 1998 first discovered the potential of stem cells to form any kind of tissue and pioneered stem-cell technology. The breakthrough garnered headlines around the world. He is the Director of the Technion Stem Cell Center.

TECHNION FOCUS MAGAZINE – Outstanding Achievement Award to Prof. Lior Gepstein

TECHNION FOCUS MAGAZINE – Outstanding Achievement Award to Prof. Lior Gepstein

Prof. Lior Gepstein: Technion Faculty of Medicine.
Date: 15/08/2011
The European Society of Cardiology (ESC) honours Prof. Lior Gepstein of the Rappaport Faculty of Medicine with an Outstanding Achievement Award. With this award the ESC Council for Basic Cardiovascular Science annually honours two basic researchers with outstanding accomplishments in the early stage of their career. At the ESC Congress in Paris, Gepstein, together with fellow awardee Thomas Thum of Germany, will each receive an honorary plaque and 3,000 Euros.  

The European Society of Cardiology represents over 62,000 cardiology professionals across Europe and the Mediterranean. Its mission is to reduce the burden of cardiovascular disease in Europe.

Stem Cells with a Heart
A Technion study published in Nature in January 2011 shows the ability of human induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs ) to recreate – in a Petri dish – a cardiac disorder known as long QT syndrome, enabling researchers to model the abnormal cardiac function and to identify potential new therapeutic agents.
Led by Prof. Lior Gepstein of the Rappaport Faculty of Medicine, the research team obtained skin cells from a patient known to have long QT syndrome – a disease which affects the heart’s ability to recharge itself after each heartbeat, causing fainting, seizures and even leading to sudden death. The Technion scientists turned the skin cells into iPSCs and then coaxed these all-purpose stem cells to become cardiac cells.
These newly created beating heart cells showed abnormal electrical activity, mimicking that of the patient’s actual heart, and enabling the scientists to test the efficacy of different drugs on the cells.
While some patients acquire the syndrome after taking certain medications, Gepstein’s patient was a 28-year-old woman with an inherited form of the disorder – type-2 LQTS – caused by a single genetic mutation. In this case, the individual cardiac cells derived from iPSCs demonstrated the same long recharging period and arrhythmia common in the hearts of long QT syndrome patients.
  
The study represents a new paradigm to help scientists learn more about how a disease like long QT syndrome works at the cellular level. Gepstein said that the disease “could be demonstrated and studied at the single-cell or multicellular level, but it doesn’t require an entire organ, which of course we cannot create.”
But it also offers a glimpse at the future of personalized medicine, where a patient’s own cells can be used to determine which treatments might work best – or should be avoided – for a particular condition. Furthermore, since heart biopsies, for example, are hard to obtain, this methodology using iPSCs also offers a novel way to study diseased cells that cannot easily be removed from the body. Researchers around the world are also using iPSCs to study other heart diseases and nervous system disorders such as Parkinson’s disease, Gepstein said.
The research team at the Sohnis and Forman Families Center of Excellence for Stem Cell and Tissue Regeneration Research included Ilanit Itzhaki, Leonid Meizels, Irit Huber, and colleagues.
Heart cells derived from the human induced
pluripotent stem cells.