Research on stem cells in the United States became easier when President Obama reversed the funding restrictions on embryonic stem cells. In fact, a range of stem-cell lines and products could increase traffic along many scientific avenues. “The market is quite large, and can be divided into two parts: the screening market and the therapy market,” says Mahendra Rao, PhD, vice president research, stem cells and regenerative medicine at Life Technologies, in Carlsbad, Calif. Rao sees the screening market as more immediately relevant, but adds that “with more than 100 clinical trials underway, the therapy market should move forward rapidly.”
Life Technologies offers a range of stem-cell lines and products as complete portfolios of matched reagents. It supplies neural stem-cell lines, rat primary cortical astrocyctes, rat glial precursor cells, as well as the associated media, enzymes, supplements, and cryopreservation reagents. The company recently released its KnockOut SR XenoFree, a media for human embryonic stem cells and human induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells. “This lets researchers move from the bench to the clinic,” explains Rao.
Life Technologies also added stem cells to its custom services. With its discovery assay services, for example, customers can include stem cells. Rao says, “This service provides screening assays to pharma, and it has been extended so that assays can be performed in stem and differentiated cells.” For example, the company’s recent Jump-In TI Gateway Vector Kit can be used to integrate a desired gene into a stem-cell line. “This can target primary or stem cells in specific ways to do screening in a much more-controlled fashion,” says Rao.
Keeping track of stem cells and their pluripotency remains a challenge. So companies make products that characterize stem cells. For instance, Mark A. Collins, PhD, director of marketing at Thermo Fisher Scientific in Pittsburgh, Pa., says, “Utilizing high-content imaging, the Thermo Scientific Cellomics Arrayscan VTI High Content reader together with our range of Cellomics reagent kits can image—using fluorescent or transmitted light—individual stem cells, making a plethora of multi-parameter measurements to generate a cell-level ‘fingerprint’ to characterize that stem-cell population.”
Collins adds, “In general, the use of stem cells offers a much more relevant model for studying diseases than cultured cell lines and are much more convenient to handle than primary cells.” Consequently, stem-cell lines, coupled with high content screening make efficient engines for researching new drugs.
About the Author
Mike May is a publishing consultant for science and technology based in Houston, Texas.
This article was published in Drug Discovery & Development magazine: Vol. 12, No. 9, October, 2009, p. 8.