Stem Cell Clinical Trials in 2014

Dr. Alexey Bersenev has done the stem cell community a great service by compiling the clinical trials that involved the used of stem cells for 2011-2014.

In 2014, there were 373 clinical trials registered in international databases that used stem cells.  36% of these trials were in the United States, 17% of them were in China, 8% in Japan, 5% in Spain, just under 5% were in India, 3.5 % were in South Korea and Iran, and 2% were in the UK.  To further break down these numbers according to geographical region, 36% were in the North America, 35% were in Asia, 19% were in Europe, 5% were in the Middle East, 3% were in Central and South America, and 2% were in Australia.

Of these clinical trials, 116 used mesenchymal stem cells, 81 used T-Cells, 31 used dendritic cells, 26 used mononuclear cells from bone marrow, 10 used Natural Killer cells, 22 used stromal vascular fraction (SVF) cells from fat, 16 used HSPCs (hematopoietic and progenitor cells) from bone marrow, and three were embryonic stem cell trials.

What were these trials trying to treat?  123 were for cancers of some sort, there were 51 trials examining neurological diseases and also 51 trials examining musculoskeletal disorders, 26 trials trying to help people with cardiovascular diseases, 17 attempting to treat skin diseases, 15 treating eye diseases, 8 that treated liver diseases, and 5 diabetes trials.

These are the rough trends.  As you can see, clinical trials that utilize adult and umbilical stem cell stem cells VASTLY outnumber those that use embryonic stem cells.

Bersenev Alexey. Trends in cell therapy clinical trials 2011 – 2014. CellTrials blog. February 14, 2015. Available:

Lab-Grown Muscle FIbers Aid in Studying Muscular Dystrophy

Skeletal muscle is the most abundant tissue in the human body, but, strangely, growing large quantities of it in the laboratory have proven rather challenging. While it is possible to reprogram other mature cells into heart muscle cells, or neurons, differentiating cells into skeletal muscle cells has simply not worked. So where do we go from here?

A new study from Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) published in Nature Biotechnology has identified and even mimicked integral cues in the development of skeletal muscle. They used these cues to grow millimeter-long muscle fibers that are capable of contracting in the laboratory. This new method for growing functional muscle fibers in the laboratory potentially offer a better model for studying muscle diseases such as muscular dystrophy and for testing new treatments for these diseases.

Previous studies have used genetic modification techniques to grow small numbers of skeletal muscle cells in the laboratory. However, this new technique, which is the result of a collaboration between BWH and Harvard Stem Cell Institute, has produced a way to grow large numbers of skeletal muscle cells for use in clinical applications.

Olivier Pourquié of Harvard Medical School said, “We took the hard route: we wanted to recapitulate all of the early stages of muscle cell development that happen in the body and recreate that in a dish in the lab. We analyzed each stage of early development, and generated cell lines that glowed green when they reached a each stage. Going step by step, we managed to mimic each stage of development and coax cells toward muscle cell fate.”

The team found that a combination of secreted factors are important at the very early stages of embryonic development to stimulate muscle differentiation. By recapitulation this cocktail in the laboratory, Pourquié and his colleagues were able to mature muscle fibers in the laboratory from mouse or human pluripotent stem cells. Additionally, they produced muscle fibers in mice afflicted with muscular dystrophy by using muscle satellite cells. It is unknown if this method could help humans who suffer from muscular dystrophy, as more research is needed.

“This has been the missing piece: the ability to produce muscle cells in the lab could give us the ability to test out new treatments and tackle a spectrum of muscle diseases,” Pourquié said.

This new method also has the potential to help researchers study other muscle diseases, such as sarcopenia, or degenerative muscle loss and cachexia, the wasting away of muscle that typically occurs during severe illness.