Advances welcomed in stem cell technology

Stem cell technology

AnthonyCutrupi, a researcher completing his PhD at the ANZAC Research Institute, has returned from six months at the University of Miami, bringing back to theConcord campus specialised skills in growing and maintaining live nerve cells. The technique will be especially valuable for the Neurobiology team investigating Charcot Marie-Tooth and associated diseases.

During his stay in Miami, Anthony studied under Assistant Professor Mario Saporta and Dr Stephan Züchner, a research collaborator with the ANZAC Institute’s Associate Professor Marina Kennerson.

“The purpose was to learn how to maintain and use the cell lines called induced pluripotent stem cell lines – that is, they are stem cells from which nerves can develop – so we can use them in researching neurological disease,” says Anthony.

Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells (iPSCs)

“You can’t get spinal cord tissue from living humans so the only way to do that is to have some form of stem cell technology. We can take skin cells from affected individuals and using exciting new discoveries (awarded the 2012 Nobel Prize in Medicine) we can now turn those skin cells into stem cells, then turn the stem cells into neuronal cell type of interest – in our case motor neurons.”

“It’s a really exciting prospect for us here because we have families without mutations in known genes. These families are good candidates in which we can now use these stem cell-derived motor neurons to help us better understand the genetic changes occurring in the nerves of patients with CMT and similar diseases.”

Work is under way to establish the stem cell lines at the ANZAC laboratory and to train other staff to grow and maintain them, giving researchers a powerful new tool as they seek therapies for neurological diseases.