A team of researchers, led by Prof. Jeong Beom Kim (School of Natural Science) at UNIST has announced that they have successfully developed a new technology to produce customized stem cells that can be used towards cell replacement therapy, as well as drug screening in spinal cord injury (SCI) or demyelinating disorders.
The findings appeared in the October 27 edition of the journal of the European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO).
In this study, the team engineered oligodendrocyte precursor cells (OPCs) by using one particular single gene. OPCs, the nerve cells that make up the insulating myelin sheath around axons. According to the team, the use of this newly developed cell production technology overcomes the limitations of current OPC production methods. In fact, this new cell can not only contribute to myelin repair, but they become activated in response to the treatment of damaged spinal cords.
In contrast to the previously reported three-factor-derived induced oligodendrocyte progenitor cells (iOPCs), Prof. Kim’s team used a minimal number of transcription factors. They employed Oct4-mediated direct reprogramming strategy, which induces cell fate plasticity at the early phase of reprogramming through mediating ectopic expression of Oct4.
Through this study, the team discovered that single-factor-derived iOPCs have higher levels of genomic stability by having lower chance of viral integration into the host genome, thereby reducing the chance of viral insertional mutagenesis.
This research was partly supported by the Bio & Medical Technology Development Program of the National Research Foundation (NRF) and funded by the ICT R&D Program of Ministry of Science, ICT & Future Planning (MSIP) and Max Planck Partner Group, Max Planck Society (MPG), Germany.
Jeong Beom Kim, Hyunah Lee, Marcos J Araúzo-Bravo, Kyujin Hwang, Donggyu Nam, Myung Rae Park, Holm Zaehres, Kook In Park, and Seok-Jin Lee. “Oct4-induced oligodendrocyte progenitor cells enhance functional recovery in spinal cord injury model.” EMBO Journal, 2015.