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San Francisco scientists use CRISPR to develop stem cells invisible to the immune system

Published on 19/02/19 at 11:42am

Scientists at UC San Francisco have used the gene editing tool CRISPR Cas9 to manufacture pluripotent stem cells (stem cells that can be generated directly from adult cells) that are functionally invisible to the immune system.

Pluripotent stem cells are particularly promising due to the fact that they can  be manufactured more efficiently. The 'universal stem cells' thus bring the promise of regenerative medicine one step closer to becoming a reality.

“Scientists often tout the therapeutic potential of pluripotent stem cells, which can mature into any adult tissue, but the immune system has been a major impediment to safe and effective stem cell therapies,” said Dr Tobias Deuse, the Julien I.E. Hoffman, Endowed Chair in Cardiac Surgery at UCSF and lead author of the new study, published 18 February in the journal Nature Biotechnology.

It is hoped that the newly developed cells invisibility to the immune system will prevent them being rejected as stem cell transplants.

“We can administer drugs that suppress immune activity and make rejection less likely. Unfortunately, these immunosuppressants leave patients more susceptible to infection and cancer” explained Professor of Surgery  Dr Sonja Schrepfer, the study's senior author and director of the UCSF Transplant and Stem Cell Immunobiology (TSI) Lab.

“This is the first time anyone has engineered cells that can be universally transplanted and can survive in immunocompetent recipients without eliciting an immune response,” Deuse said. “Our technique solves the problem of rejection of stem cells and stem cell-derived tissues, and represents a major advance for the stem cell therapy field.”

“Our technique can benefit a wider range of people with production costs that are far lower than any individualized approach. We only need to manufacture our cells one time and we're left with a product that can be applied universally,” Deuse added.

Louis Goss

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