Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells Combo Could Yield Much-needed Models to Study Vascular Disease

Brian R. Wamhoff, Ph.D., Co-founder and Head of Innovation at HemoShear Therapeutics

A study recently published in STEM CELLS Translational Medicine shows smooth muscle and vascular endothelial cells induced from pluripotent stem cells perform similarly to their naturally evolving counterparts under conditions that mimic hardening of the arteries and other blood vessel diseases. The finding opens the door to modeling rare vascular diseases necessary for research, as well as assists in screening new drugs and developing personalized cell-based therapies.

Researchers have difficulty studying vascular diseases – those affecting the blood vessels – because of a scarcity of human tissue samples and difficulty in accurately modeling the disease of interest. The potential toxic effects when testing a new drug is another reason why a substitute for real blood vessels is desperately needed.

Recent advances in stem cell biology, however, are beginning to change things. Induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs), which can differentiate into various adult human cell types, allow scientists to grow human tissue in the lab for research. Additionally, iPSC lines produced from patients with genetic diseases offer the ability to investigate specific genetic alterations of interest and their effect in disease onset and progression.

Research has already shown that vascular endothelial cells (iECs) and smooth muscle cells (iSMCs) can be created from human iPSCs. (Endothelial cells form the interior lining of a blood vessel while smooth muscle cells reside within the wall of the blood vessel.) However, because these cells are not derived from an intact blood vessel, they represent what is known as “an immature phenotype,” which means they don’t have all…

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