The material could provide an off-the-shelf product for clinical use in the treatment of the heart, liver and brain
Researchers at The University of Nottingham have discovered the first fully synthetic substrate with potential to grow billions of stem cells.
The research, published in the journal Advanced Materials, could pave the way for the creation of 'stem cell factories' – the mass production of human embryonic (pluripotent) stem cells.
The £2.3m research project, Discovery of a Novel Polymer for Human Pluripotent Stem Cell Expansion and Multilineage Differentiation, was led by Morgan Alexander, Professor of Biomedical Surfaces in the School of Pharmacy and Chris Denning, Professor of Stem Cell Biology in the School of Medicine and funded by the UK's Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC). The material could provide an off-the-shelf product for clinical use in the treatment of the heart, liver and brain.
Professor Alexander, Director of the Interface and Surface Analysis Centre, and his team have been searching for polymers on which human pluripotent stem cells can be grown and differentiated in vast numbers – billions at a time.
What we are doing here is paving the way for the manufacture of stem cells in large numbers
Professor Alexander said: 'The possibilities for regenerative medicine are still being researched in the form of clinical trials. What we are doing here is paving the way for the manufacture of stem cells in large numbers when those therapies are proved to be safe and effective.'
Using a high throughput materials discovery approach, the research team has found this man-made material, which they say is free from possible contamination and batch variability.
Professor Denning, whose field is in cardiac stem cell research, addd: 'The field of regenerative medicine has snowballed in the last five years and over the coming five years more patients will be receiving stem cell treatments. Clinical trials are still in the very early stages. However, with this kind of product, if we can get it commercialised and validated by the regulators it could be helping patients in two to three years.'
Conditions of the heart, liver and brain are all under investigation as possible new stem cell treatments. People are already receiving stem cells derived eye cells for eye disorders.
These new materials have shown great promise in the laboratory. The research team is now seeking a commercial partner to test this lab-based discovery on an industrial scale.