Is using someone else’s Young Stem Cells better than using your own Old Stem Cells?
Are another person’s young stem cells better than your own? Could you use them to get around the fact that your old stem cells may not be as good? Much of the stem cell pharma industry is focused on using donor stem cells from young patients and growing these to massive numbers in bio reactors. They call this “scalability”, meaning that you can distribute these young cells in vials into existing drug distribution pipelines. From a business standpoint this makes sense, but does it make sense from a scientific standpoint? The concept that young stem cells perform better than old ones has some prima facie evidence. In many papers, older stem cells have less ability to perform certain functions when compared to younger stem cells. However, is it really that simple? Likely not. Stem cells communicate extensively with their local environment. For example, they can detect if the local stuff that cradles them (extra-cellular matrix-ECM) is young or old and respond according. Stem cell research is compelling and this novel observation was made in a landmark paper from last year. The researchers took old stem cells and exposed them to young ECM and the stem cells went from plodding along like grandpa stem cells to regaining the capabilities of younger stem cells! This week another paper in this “young stuff makes old cells young” genre was published. For this paper, the researchers focused on the specific cellular signals that cause the “young/old” switch on the stem cells to be in the “on” or “off” position. The quote by the lead investigator says it all, “The findings suggest, for example, that putting new or young stem cells into an old environment — that of an aged patient — might not lead to the best outcome in tissue regeneration”. Meaning that many of these bio pharma approaches may ultimately fail as putting young stem cells in an old environment may not be any better than putting old stem cells into the same environment. For our part, we have always respected the micro environment in our stem cell treatments. We go through great lengths to test various medications and other adjuvants with stem cells in our advanced lab to determine ways to optimize function. The upshot? You can teach old stem cells new tricks, but young stem cells easily learn bad tricks from old digs.