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The European Biotechnology Network is dedicated to facilitating co-operation between professionals in biotechnology and the life sciences all over Europe.
The non-profit organisation brings research groups, universities, SMEs, large companies and indeed all actors in biotechnology together to build and deliver partnerships.
Catch of the day
Human cells simulate Alzheimer06.12.2013 German researchers have provided first evidence that reprogrammed patient neurons can better predict human response to drugs than animal models.Catch of the Day is brought to you by European Biotechnology News
The researchers, headed by Oliver Bruestle from University of Bonn and Life & Brain GmbH, derived neurons from Alzheimer's patients through reprogramming induced pluripotent cells (hiPSCs) from somatic cells which were subsequently differentiated into human neurons (Stem Cell Reports). Tests on these iPSC-derived human nerve cells showed that non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) were not able to block formation of beta-amyloid protein aggregates, which are found in Alzheimer's brains. Previous tests with animal models had suggested reduced formation of the harmful protein variants upon NSAID administration but subsequent clinical studies failed. It’s the retrospective proof-of-concept that hiPSC-derived cell models do indeed provide better models for a human disease. This has been believed for a while but had yet to be demonstrated.
"Remarkably, these compounds were never tested directly on the actual target cells – the human neuron", said Dr Jerome Mertens, lead author of the study. According to Life & Brain CEO Bruestle, this is because living human neurons had been extremely difficult to cultivate before hiPSC-derived brain cells in unlimited numbers became available through reprogramming cells from a small skin biopsy.
The German researchers, together with colleagues from the University of Leuven (Belgium), used skin cells from two patients with a familial form of Alzheimer's Disease to produce hiPSCs which they then transformed into nerve cells. In both, hiPSC-derived brain cells from Alzheimer patients as well as from healthy donors showed no reduction of the harmful beta-amyloid variants after administration of different NSAIDs, reflecting their effect in humans.
The Bonn-based researchers have already established a facility dubbed the “stem cell factory” where they can generate such cell models automatically in a standardised, GMP-compliant way. They now hope that their own, and similar results of other stem cell researchers, will foster uptake of cell models in the conservative pharmaceutical industry. "The development of a single drug takes an average of ten years", says Bruestle. "By using patient-specific nerve cells as a test system, investments by pharmaceutical companies and the tedious search for urgently needed Alzheimer medications could be greatly streamlined".
Big Pharma has already recognised the potential and set up an €50m initiative termed StemBaNCC within the Innovative Medicines Initiative to derive human iPSCs suitable for high throughput screening of new compounds. According to the project coordinator, Martin Graf at Swiss Roche AG, first results are expected in the next year.
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