Study Identifies Cell Subtypes For Potential Personalized Cellular Therapies
May 10, 2012

Study Identifies Cell Subtypes For Potential Personalized Cellular Therapies

Connie K. Ho for

A new study by researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) has discovered two adult stem cell-like subpopulations in adult human skin.

The findings allow for further research to be done in the area of personalized medicine and patient-specific cellular therapies.

The study, using technology from Fibrocell Science, allowed the researchers to identify and confirm two types of cells in human skin cell cultures; the possible source of stem cell-like subpopulations from skin biopsies would be faster to perform, painless, and less invasive than current extractions from adipose tissues and bone marrow.

The research, featured in the inaugural issue of BioResearch Open Access, discusses two subtypes of cells. BioResearch Open Access is a bimonthly, peer-reviewed journal. It features scientific topics like biochemistry, bioengineering, gene therapy, genetics, microbiology, neuroscience, regenerative medicine, stem cells, systems biology, tissue engineering and biomaterials, and virology.

“Being able to identify two sub-populations of rare, viable and functional cells that behave like stem cells from within the skin is an important finding because both cell types have the potential to be investigated for diverse clinical applications,” commented Dr. James A. Bryne, lead author of the report.

Bryne´s research, first at Stanford University then at UCLA, focused on reprogramming beginnings of cells from animals and then humans. A graduate of Cambridge University, Bryne studied the intra- and inter-species of epigenetic reprogramming. His work also highlighted how primate embryonic stem cells could be derived from somatic cell nuclear transfers.

The study published in BioResearch Open Access confirmed previous research that identified a rare population of cells in adult human skin that had a marker called stage-specific embryonic antigen 3 (SSEA3).  Bryne and his colleagues found that there was an increase in the amount of SSEA3 expressing cells after injury to the human skin. It showed that the SSEA3 biomarker could be used to help identify and isolate cells with tissue-regenerative traits.

“Finding these rare adult stem cell-like subpopulations in human skin is an exciting discovery and provides the first step towards purifying and expanding these cells to clinically relevant numbers for application to a variety of potential personalized cellular therapies for osteoarthritis, bone loss, injury and/or damage to human skin as well as many other diseases,” remarked Bryne, an Assistant Professor of Molecular and Medical Pharmacology at the Eli and Edythe Broad Center of Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Research at UCLA.

Bryne and his team used Fibrocell technology to collect cells from skin samples, cultured the cells in the lab, and purified them by fluorescence-activated cell sorting (FACS). The FACS tagged suspended cells with fluorescent markers for undifferentiated stem cells. The researchers were able to separate the rare cell subpopulations from other kinds of cells.

The subtypes include SSEA3-expressing regeneration-associated (SERA) cells, which could assist in the regeneration of human skin after injuries, and mesenchymal adult stem cells (MSCs), which could possibly differentiate into osteoblats (bone cells), chondrocytes (cartilage cells), and adipocytes (fat cells).

“The function of these tightly packed SSEA3-expressing spheres is currently unknown, but they may play a role in the regeneration of human skin in response to injury. These data provide empirical support for the hypothesis that SSEA3 expression significantly correlates with tissue regeneration in human skin. Future analysis of a larger number of tissue biopsy fragments from a larger number of donors will be necessary,” wrote the researchers in the report.

With these the specialized cells within skin cell cultures, patients could possibly one day have stem cells that were extracted from their skin, reprogrammed to differentiate into specific cell types, and implanted again into their bodies for a therapeutic effect. According to Bryne, 30 million Americans have lower back pain and some proportion of those can have back pain alleviated by spinal fusion. Currently, patients undergo surgical organ or tissue transplantation to replace disease or destroyed tissue but there can be donor liabilities among other issues.

“Patient specific treatments are important because the cells are identical to the patient, and not rejected by the patient´s immune system,” noted Bryne. “This is the first step in a multi-step collaboration with Fibrocell.”

The team will continue to further the research that they have done so far. After identifying the rare subtypes of cells, the group will focus on purifying the population of stem cells and then expanding the population of cells. This two-step research is still under investigation.

“The identification, efficient purification, and large-scale expansion of these rare subpopulations
(SERA cells and MSCs) from heterogeneous adult human skin primary cell cultures may have applications for future patient-specific cellular therapies,” concluded the authors in the report.

Fibrocell Science Proprietary Technology, as a company, has focused on isolating, purifying, and multiplying a patient´s fibroblast cells for injection.

“We congratulate the UCLA researchers on the publication of their breakthrough data, which may ultimately lead to new patient-specific, personalized cellular therapies to treat various diseases,” commented David Pernock, Chairman and Chief Executive Office of Fibrocell Science.

Fibroblast cells are a kind of skin that produces collagen. The company´s first produce that utilized this proprietary technology was LAVIV, a cell therapy for wrinkles. The collaboration with researcher Bryne started a few years ago in 2008.

“We were looking at other opportunities with fibroblasts, a unique nature of what we do. We studied the area and we started to see data coming from different universities around the world that had research relevant to developing fibroblasts,” explained Pernock. “We looked deeper into what was occurring and identified a couple of people who could get involved with the company for things that we wanted to do in the long-term.”

The organization continues to focus on autologous cellular therapies as well as products that have aesthetic, medical, and scientific applications.

“The key point that we´re really excited about is providing doctors with a much easier source to get stem cells for patients. If we can do that, we do a really good job. I think it´ll be nice for our company and for UCLA as well,” said Pernock. “It´s very interesting for us. I´m very excited about it.”