We are fortunate to have some guest bloggers for the Dish that are attending the American Society for Cell Biology (ASCB) conference being held in Denver, Colorado this week. The annual ASCB conference is always very informative and I hope you will enjoy reading about some of the highlights over the next few days.
One of the unique information sharing opportunities that is offered at ASCB is the Science Discussion Tables. I attended one today on Stem Cell Biology, presented by Leanne Jones, Salk Institute for Biological Studies (faculty page at Salk Institute). The discussion focused primarily on the in vitro environment (i.e. the cell culture medium) and the critical role of the microenvironment that maintains stem cell properties.
In terms of the stem cell environment, it was clear that there is a need for serum free and animal free components, but most importantly for a defined complete media. This need resonated loudly as most of the participants stated that they do prefer a serum free environment, but that there is a lack of consistent and reliable media available on the market today. So, most researchers stay with what they are comfortable with – FBS.
While serum free and animal-free stem cell media solutions may not be widely available, there are some products that address these needs. InVitria’s recombinant human serum albumin (Cellastim) and recombinant transferrin (Optiferrin) can be used to replace animal or human derived components or can be used in combination to replace or reduce serum. In addition Stem Cell Technologies has developed a completely animal-free stem cell media and Life Technologies has developed xeno-free stem cell media. While improvements have been made to in vitro work, it was clear that more research is needed to fully understand the effect of the microenvironment on regulating and maintaining the functional properties of stem cells.
Overall, the main goal still remains— how to translate bench science to an economical, feasible, and practical human therapeutic. At the end of our discussion, it was clear that in order to make stem Cell Therapy a reality it will take the merging of both academia and biotechnology/pharmaceutical industry efforts.