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Category Archives: North Carolina Stem Cells

What it means to be the worlds first IVF baby – THE WEEK

Posted: August 31, 2021 at 2:25 am

She grew in a glass jar as an embryo and was later placed in her mothers womb.

Louise Brown, the worlds first baby conceived outside of the human body, celebrated her 43rd birthday this July 25. I was subjected to more than 100 tests after my birth to ensure I was a normal child, she told THE WEEK.

Louise was a child of perseverance and relentless hope. Her parentsGilbert John Brown, a truck driver, and Lesleydesperately wanted a baby. The couple, who lived in Whitchurch, England, tried to conceive for nine years without success. Lesley had fallopian tube blockages that made natural conception impossible. She had undergone failed operations in the past to clear her blocked tubes and was prepared to put up with anything to have a baby.

On November 10, 1978, the couple underwent a procedure, wherein a mature egg extracted from one of Lesleys ovaries was fused with Johns sperm in a laboratory under the direction of physiologist Sir Robert Geoffrey Edwards and gynaecologist Patrick Christopher Steptoe. Lesley was warned that there was only a one in a million chance of having a baby, but she clung to hope.

The egg was fertilised and divided into two, four and then eight cells. Lesley got pregnant after the eight-celled embryo was implanted in her womb. Being the first woman to have conceived via in vitro fertilisation (IVF) and have a pregnancy that went beyond a few weeks, Lesley attracted a lot of media attention. Edwards and Steptoe found it hard to shield her from the media frenzy. She was hounded by the press so much that Steptoe hid her in his car and drove her to his mothers place in Lincoln. Later, when Lesley was admitted to Oldham hospital for delivery, reporters entered her room posing as housekeeping staff.

Louise Joy Brown, weighing five pounds 12 ounces, was born by C-section at 11.47pm on July 25, 1978. The Joy in her name was a suggestion from the two doctors. Her birth marked a milestone in modern medical science. It was described by TIME as the most awaited birth in perhaps 2,000 years. The baby offered a ray of hope to millions of childless couples across the world. Until then, for women with damaged fallopian tubes, it was impossible to conceive. Edwards won the Nobel Prize in 2010 for the development of IVF therapy, considered one of the most remarkable medical breakthroughs of the 20th century. Around eight million babies have been born in the last four decades through assisted reproduction technologies, including IVF.

Louise realised she was an IVF baby only when she started going to school. Lesley showed her a video footage of her birth. IVF was unheard of in those days and people were curious about her unique birth. She had always been big-bodied and some would ask her how she managed to fit in the test tube.

The Browns were in the spotlight for many years after Louises birth. They were criticised for allowing the doctors to film the birth. Soon after Louises birth, Lesley received a post bag full of letters splattered in red. Once, she received a box from the US that contained a broken test tube and a plastic foetus. Louise defended her mother, saying that letting the doctors film the birth was an act of gratitude for her.

Things were no different for Edwards and Steptoe. They had a hard time breaking the taboo and stereotypes around IVF. The idea of fertilising an egg outside the body has always been controversial. The first such successful experiment was done at Boston in 1944 by Miriam Menkin, essentially a scientist at heart and mind but often relegated to a lab technician or research assistant to the better-known fertility specialist and contraceptive pill co-developer John Rock. The research got derailed with Menkins move to North Carolina, where IVF was considered scandalous, following her husbands job loss. But it was Menkins initial research that eventually led to Louises birth through IVF.

Edwards, Steptoe and nurse Jean Purdy, whose contribution was forgotten till recently, feared criticism from the church and the public and they kept their work under wraps. Only five of the 282 women who underwent IVF could get clinically pregnant and none of them had delivered a live baby. Many embryos died during the process. Unsurprisingly, the medical community refused them support for research. The UK Medical Research Council feared children born through IVF would run a risk of fatal abnormalities. IVF children, Louise said, are no different from normal children. The only difference is the process of conception, she said. It is impossible to distinguish between an IVF baby and other children born naturally.

John and Lesley went for IVF again and had a second childNatalie. The couple wanted a third child, but their attempts failed. Natalie was the 40th child to be born through IVF. She became the first IVF child to conceive naturally, easing concerns that women born through IVF cannot conceive naturally. Natalie now has five children.For the Browns, IVF changed their life in more ways than one. Lesley was Johns second wife; he had two daughters from a previous marriage. John and Lesley, who stayed in an abandoned railway carriage on the first night of their elopement, had a hard life. Homeless, penniless and unemployed, they struggled a lot until John got a job as a bus conductor.

Infertility was an extremely frustrating experience for Lesley. In an interview to Daily Mail later, she said, You feel you are not the same as ordinary wives. You dont feel normal. You feel you are not a real woman. I said to John, Go and find a proper wife.

The couple couldnt afford IVF until 1977, when John won 750, by betting on the outcome of a football match. That helped him pay for the IVF treatment.After Louise was born, the Browns earned money by doing exclusives. Louises birth was reported exclusively by Daily Mail. Associated Newspapers Ltd, the parent company of Daily Mail, secured exclusive rights to the story and pictures reportedly by paying $600,000. Lesley and John stayed positive amid the negativity that was directed at them. They went on speaking assignments around the world as advocates for IVF.

Louise now lives in Oldham with her husband Wesley Mullinder, a nightclub bouncer. Interestingly, Mullinder first met Louise when she was just a few days old. Eight-year-old Mullinder lived across the street from the Browns and was among the crowd gathered to see the extraordinary baby. The duo later met when Louise was 24. Two years later, they were married. They have two boysCameron and Aiden. Cameron is 14 and has just begun with his General Certificate of Secondary Education exams; he will be applying for college in another two years. Aiden turned eight this August.

All her life, Louise received media attention. And now she is consciously using the media glare on her to break the stigma associated with infertility and IVF treatments. Couples suffer through a lot of emotional and psychological stress. I think no couple should be deprived of parenthood, said Louise, who has shared the story of her extraordinary birth and its impact on her life in her memoir My Life As The Worlds First Test Tube Baby. Through my association with ART Fertility Clinics India, I will be working towards the mission of making IVF the wise choice of treatment, enabling couples to realise the dream of parenthood. Another purpose is to assert that all those who need IVF should have access to it.

IVF has come a long way. Scientists now pin their hopes on IVG (in vitro gametogenesis), which could make it possible to produce babies from skin cells. IVG seemed promising when tested in mice. In 2016, a group of researchers in Japan created embryos using skin cells from mice. The embryos wereimplanted, and eight healthy mice were born.

Scientists are now exploring the possibility of making human babies in the lab using skin cells. Imagine a couple wanting to have a baby walking in to a lab to give their skin biopsy samples. The cells from these samples will be transformed into stem cells, which, in turn, will be reprogrammed into sperms and eggs. The process involves creating embryos outside the womb and then transferring them into the womans womb for implantation, as in IVF. IVG holds much promise for people who cannot conceive naturally, especially menopausal women, gay and lesbian couples and men with abnormal sperm function or low sperm production.

Dr Henry T. Greely, author of The End of Sex and the Future of Human Reproduction, said that in future, sex will no longer be a popular means of reproduction for people in developed countries. People will continue to have sex. But those who want to have a baby would prefer to go to a lab, said the Stanford professor of law and genetics. IVG for humans will be a reality within our lifetime, said Greely.

Every woman has the right to have a child, said Louise. Treatment for fertility problems is a right that should be made available to all women, she said. IVF not only creates a child, but a family, she added. Despite her extraordinary birth, Louise lives an ordinary life. She worked in a nursery in her early 20s. Currently, she works for a freight company in Bristol. Her days begin with planning meetings with her team at National Fertility Society; her evenings are dedicated to her family. Home means a lot to Louise, who was a much loved and much longed for child. Her mother had carefully kept everything concerned with her birth, from hospital appointment cards and correspondence to letters from journalists and well-wishers and even a movie script by Carl Foreman, Oscar-winning Hollywood film producer. Louise donated them to the Bristol Archives. Among them is a letter from Edwards to Lesley, dated December 6, 1977, which reads:

Dear Mrs Brown,

Just a short note to let you know that the early results on your blood and urine samples are very encouraging, and indicate that you might be in early pregnancy.

So please take things quietlyno skiing, climbing, or anything too strenuous including Xmas shopping!

If you should wish to get in touch with me for any reason before seeing Mr Steptoe next week, my laboratory number is 0223 65069, and my home number is 0223 54019. Best wishes.

Yours sincerely,

Dr R.G. Edwards

All these mementos were found in Lesleys wardrobe following her death. She died due to complications of a gallbladder infection on June 6, 2012. She never regretted her choices.

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Cellectis Announces Participation in Five Investor Conferences – Yahoo Finance

Posted: at 2:25 am

NEW YORK, Aug. 26, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Cellectis S.A. (NASDAQ: CLLS EURONEXT GROWTH: ALCLS) (the Company), a gene-editing platform company with clinical-stage immuno-oncology programs using allogeneic chimeric antigen receptor (CAR)-T cells and gene therapy programs for monogenic diseases, today announced that management plans to participate in five virtual investor conferences.

11th Annual Biotech Symposium (Goldman Sachs) Date: Tuesday, September 7, 2021Time: 8AM-6PM (GMT)

Citis 16th Annual Biopharma Conference 2021Date: Thursday, September 9, 2021Time: 10:40AM ET

Wells Fargo Healthcare Conference Date: Friday, September 10, 2021Time: 9:20AM ET

H.C. Wainwright 23rd Annual Global Investment Conference Date: Monday, September 13, 2021Time: 7AM ET

Baird 2021 Global Healthcare Conference Date: Wednesday, September 15, 2021Time: 9:05 AM ET

Live webcasts of these events and a replay of these webcasts will be available under the Events and Webcasts section on the Investor page of the of the Companys at website: https://www.cellectis.com/en/investors/events-and-webcasts/

About CellectisCellectis is a gene editing company, developing first of its kind therapeutic product candidates. Cellecties utilizes an allogeneic approach for CAR-T immunotherapies in oncology, pioneering the concept of off-the-shelf and ready-to-use gene-edited CAR T-cells to treat cancer patients, and a platform to make therapeutic gene editing in hematopeitic stem cells for various diseases. As a clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company with over 21 years of expertise in gene editing, Cellectis is developing life-changing product candidates utilizing TALEN, its gene editing technology, and PulseAgile, its pioneering electroporation system to harness the power of the immune system in order to treat diseases with unmet medical needs.

As part of its commitment to a cure, Cellectis remains dedicated to its goal of providing life-saving UCART product candidates for multiple cancers including r/r AML), r/r B-ALL and r/r MM. .HEAL is a new platform focusing on hematopeitic stem cells to treat blood disorders, immunodeficiencies and lysosomial storage diseases.

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Cellectis headquarters are in Paris, France, with locations in New York, New York and Raleigh, North Carolina. Cellectis is listed on the Nasdaq Global Market (ticker: CLLS) and on Euronext Growth (ticker: ALCLS). For more information, visit http://www.cellectis.com. Follow Cellectis on social media: @cellectis, LinkedIn and YouTube.TALEN is a registered trademark owned by Cellectis.

For further information, please contact:

Media contacts:Pascalyne Wilson, Director, Communications, +33 7 76 99 14 33, pascalyne.wilson@cellectis.com Margaret Gandolfo, Senior Manager, Communications, 646-628-0300, margaret.gandolfo@cellectis.com Sheryl Seapy, Real Chemistry, 213-262-9390, sseapy@realchemistry.com

IR contact:Eric Dutang, Chief Financial Officer, 646-630-1748, eric.dutang@cellectis.com

DisclaimerThis presentation contains forward-looking statements within the meaning of applicable securities laws, including the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. Forward-looking statements may be identified by words such as believe, expect, plan, designed to, foresee, look forward, will, could, would or the negative of these and similar expressions. These forward-looking statements, which are based on our managements current expectations and assumptions and on information currently available to management, include statements about our research and development projects and priorities, our pre-clinical project development efforts, the timing and progress of clinical trials (including with respect to patient enrollment and follow-up), the timing of our presentation of clinical data, the adequacy of our supply of clinical vials, the timing of completion of construction of our Raleigh, North Carolina manufacturing facility, operational capabilities at our manufacturing facilities, the sufficiency of cash to fund our operations. These forward-looking statements are made in light of information currently available to us and are subject to numerous risks and uncertainties, including with respect to the numerous risks associated with biopharmaceutical product candidate development as well as the duration and severity of the COVID-19 pandemic and governmental and regulatory measures implemented in response to the evolving situation. With respect to our cash runway, our operating plans, including product development plans, may change as a result of various factors, including factors currently unknown to us. Furthermore, many other important factors, including those described in our Annual Report on Form 20-F and the financial report (including the management report) for the year ended December 31, 2020 and subsequent filings Cellectis makes with the Securities Exchange Commission from time to time, as well as other known and unknown risks and uncertainties may adversely affect such forward-looking statements and cause our actual results, performance or achievements to be materially different from those expressed or implied by the forward-looking statements. Except as required by law, we assume no obligation to update these forward-looking statements publicly, or to update the reasons why actual results could differ materially from those anticipated in the forward-looking statements, even if new information becomes available in the future.

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Nanodecoy Therapy is an Effective Alternative to Neutralize SARS-CoV-2 Virus – AZoNano

Posted: June 23, 2021 at 2:11 am

Written by AZoNanoJun 18 2021

Nanodecoys are made from human lung spheroid cells (LSCs). They bind and neutralize the SARS-CoV-2 virus, promoting viral clearance and reducing injury to the lungs in a COVID-19 macaque model.

Nanodecoy therapy mimics the receptor where the virus binds and thus targets the virus itself. This therapy could be effective against the emerging virus variants.

SARS-CoV-2 penetrates a cell when its spike protein is binding to the angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) receptor found on the surface of the cell. LSCs a natural combination of lung epithelial stem cells and mesenchymal cells also express ACE2. This makes them a perfect vehicle to trick the virus.

If you think of the spike protein as a key and the cells ACE2 receptor as a lock, then what we are doing with the nanodecoys is overwhelming the virus with fake locks so that it cannot find the ones that let it enter lung cells. The fake locks bind and trap the virus, preventing it from infecting cells and replicating, and the bodys immune system takes care of the rest.

Ke Cheng, Randall B. Terry Jr. Distinguished Professor in Regenerative Medicine, North Carolina State University

Cheng is also a professor in the Joint Department of Biomedical Engineering, North Carolina State University (NC State)/UNC-Chapel Hill, and the corresponding author of the study.

Cheng and work colleagues from the NC State and UNC-CH transformed LSCs into nanovesicles or tiny cell membrane bubbles with ACE2 receptors as well as other lung cell-specific proteins on the surface.

The researchers confirmed that the spike protein indeed adheres to the ACE2 receptors on the decoys in vitro. They subsequently used a fabricated SARS-Co-V-2 mimicking virus for in vivo testing in a mouse model and delivered the decoys with the help of inhalation therapy. However, the nanodecoys remained in the lungs of the mice for 72 hours after one dose and helped in quickly clearing the mimicking virus.

Later, a contract research organization performed a pilot study in a macaque model and observed that inhalation therapy employing nanodecoys not only accelerated the viral clearance but also reduced fibrosis and inflammation in the lungs. No toxicity was noted in both the mouse and macaque study, but more research is needed to translate this treatment for human testing and precisely find out how the nanodecoys are cleared by the body.

These nanodecoys are essentially cell ghosts, and one LSC can generate around 11,000 of them. Deploying millions of these decoys exponentially increases the surface area of fake binding sites for trapping the virus, and their small size basically turns them into little bite-sized snacks for macrophages, so they are cleared very efficiently.

Ke Cheng, Randall B. Terry Jr. Distinguished Professor in Regenerative Medicine, North Carolina State University

The researchers pointed out the other three advantages of the LSC nanodecoys. First, non-invasive delivery of nanodecoys to the lungs through inhalation therapy is possible. Second, the nanodecoys are acellular, which means nothing lives inside, so they can be preserved easily and can remain stable for a longer time, allowing off-the-shelf use. Finally, LSCs are already being used in other clinical trials and, therefore, are more likely to be used in the near future.

By focusing on the bodys defenses rather than a virus that will keep mutating we have the potential to create a therapy that will be useful long-term. As long as the virus needs to enter the lung cell, we can keep tricking it.

Ke Cheng, Randall B. Terry Jr. Distinguished Professor in Regenerative Medicine, North Carolina State University

The study was published in the Nature Nanotechnology journal and was funded by the National Institutes of Health and the American Heart Association. Dr. Jason Lobo, a pulmonologist at UNC-CH, is the co-author of the study.

Video Credit: North Carolina State University.

Li, Z., et al. (2021) Cell-Mimicking Nanodecoys Neutralize SARS-CoV-2 and Mitigate Lung Injury in a Nonhuman Primate Model of COVID-19. Nature Nanotechnology. doi.org/ 10.1038/s41565-021-00923-2.

Source: https://www.ncsu.edu/

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‘Nanodecoy’ Therapy Binds and Neutralizes SARS-CoV-2 Virus – NC State News

Posted: at 2:11 am

Nanodecoys made from human lung spheroid cells (LSCs) can bind to and neutralize SARS-CoV-2, promoting viral clearance and reducing lung injury in a macaque model of COVID-19. By mimicking the receptor that the virus binds to rather than targeting the virus itself, nanodecoy therapy could remain effective against emerging variants of the virus.

Download video transcript (.RTF)

SARS-CoV-2 enters a cell when its spike protein binds to the angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) receptor on the cells surface. LSCs a natural mixture of lung epithelial stem cells and mesenchymal cells also express ACE2, making them a perfect vehicle for tricking the virus.

If you think of the spike protein as a key and the cells ACE2 receptor as a lock, then what we are doing with the nanodecoys is overwhelming the virus with fake locks so that it cannot find the ones that let it enter lung cells, says Ke Cheng, corresponding author of the research. The fake locks bind and trap the virus, preventing it from infecting cells and replicating, and the bodys immune system takes care of the rest.

Cheng is the Randall B. Terry Jr. Distinguished Professor in Regenerative Medicine at North Carolina State University and a professor in the NCState/UNC-Chapel Hill Joint Department of Biomedical Engineering.

Cheng and colleagues from NCState and UNC-CH converted individual LSCs into nanovesicles, or tiny cell membrane bubbles with ACE2 receptors and other lung cell-specific proteins on the surface.

They confirmed that the spike protein did bind to the ACE2 receptors on the decoys in vitro, then used a fabricated SARS-Co-V-2 mimic virus for in vivo testing in a mouse model. The decoys were delivered via inhalation therapy. In mice, the nanodecoys remained in the lungs for 72 hours after one dose and accelerated clearance of the mimic virus.

Finally, a contract research organization conducted a pilot study in a macaque model and found that inhalation therapy with the nanodecoys accelerated viral clearance, and reduced inflammation and fibrosis in the lungs. Although no toxicity was noted in either the mouse or macaque study, further study will be necessary to translate this therapy for human testing and determine exactly how the nanodecoys are cleared by the body.

These nanodecoys are essentially cell ghosts, and one LSC can generate around 11,000 of them, Cheng says. Deploying millions of these decoys exponentially increases the surface area of fake binding sites for trapping the virus, and their small size basically turns them into little bite-sized snacks for macrophages, so they are cleared very efficiently.

The researchers point out three other benefits of the LSC nanodecoys. First, they can be delivered non-invasively to the lungs via inhalation therapy. Second, since the nanodecoys are acellular theres nothing living inside they can be easily preserved and remain stable longer, enabling off-the-shelf use. Finally, LSCs are already in use in other clinical trials, so there is an increased likelihood of being able to use them in the near future.

By focusing on the bodys defenses rather than a virus that will keep mutating we have the potential to create a therapy that will be useful long-term, Cheng says. As long as the virus needs to enter the lung cell, we can keep tricking it.

The research appears in Nature Nanotechnology and was supported by the National Institutes of Health and the American Heart Association. Dr. Jason Lobo, pulmonologist at UNC-CH, is co-author of the paper.

-peake-

Note to editors: An abstract follows.

Cell-Mimicking Nanodecoys Neutralize SARS-CoV-2 and Mitigate Lung Injury in a Nonhuman Primate Model of COVID-19

DOI: 10.1038/s41565-021-00923-2

Authors: Zhenhua Li, Zhenzhen Wang, Phuong-Uyen C. Dinh, Dashuai Zhu, Kristen D. Popowski, Halle Lutz, Shiqi Hu, Ke Cheng, North Carolina State University; Leonard J. Lobo, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; Mark G. Lewis, Anthony Cook, Hanne Andersen, Jack Greenhouse, Laurent Pessaint, Bioqual, Inc.

Published: Online June 17, 2021 in Nature Nanotechnology

Abstract:Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), has grown into a global pandemic, and no specific antiviral treatments have been approved to date. The angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) plays a fundamental role in SARS-CoV-2 pathogenesis as it allows viral entry into host cells. Here we show that ACE2 nanodecoys derived from human lung spheroid cells (LSCs) can bind and neutralize SARS-CoV-2 and protect the host lung cells from infection. In mice, the nanodecoys were delivered via inhalation therapy and resided in the lungs for over 72 hours post-delivery. Furthermore, inhalation of nanodecoys accelerated clearance of SARS-CoV-2 mimics from the lungs, with no observed toxicity. In cynomolgus macaques challenged with live SARS-CoV-2, four doses of nanodecoys delivered by inhalation promoted viral clearance and reduced lung injury. Our results suggest that LSC-nanodecoys can serve as a potential therapeutic agent for treating COVID-19.

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Researchers curb local immune response in horses receiving stem cell injury therapy – Horsetalk

Posted: February 7, 2021 at 12:48 am

Cultures with treated stem cells had a 50% higher stem cell survival rate than untreated cultures. Image by carolem41

Treating equine donor stem cells with a growth factor called TGF-2 may allow them to avoid tripping the immune response in recipients, according to new research.

The work carried out at North Carolina State University could simplify the stem cell treatment process for ligament and tendon injuries in horses, and may also have implications for human stem cell therapies.

Mesenchymal stem cell therapy is a promising avenue for treating musculoskeletal injuries, particularly tendon and ligament injuries, in horses.

Mesenchymal stem cells are adult stem cells found in bone marrow that act as repair directors, producing secretions that recruit healing-related paracrine factors to the site of injury.

Just as blood cells have types, depending upon which antigens are on the blood cells surface, mesenchymal stem cells have differing sets of major histocompatibility complex molecules, or MHCs, on their surfaces.

If the MHCs of donor and recipient arent a match, the donors stem cells cause an immune response. In organ transplants, MHCs are carefully matched to prevent rejection.

These treatments arent like a bone marrow transplant or an organ transplant, says Lauren Schnabel, associate professor of equine orthopedic surgery at the university and corresponding author of the study, reported in the journal Frontiers in Cell and Developmental Biology.

Since the mesenchymal stem cells are being used temporarily to treat localized injury, researchers once thought that they didnt need to be matched that they wouldnt cause an immune response. Unfortunately, that isnt the case.

Schnabel and Alix Berglund, a research scholar at the university and lead author of the paper, wanted to find a way to use mesenchymal stem cell therapy without the time, effort and additional cost of donor/recipient matching.

Since these cells dont have to be in the body as long as an organ does, hiding them from the immune system long enough for them to secrete their paracrine factors could be a way around donor/recipient matching, Berglund says. Downregulating expression of the MHC molecules could be one way to do this.

The researchers cultured stem cells and lymphocytes, or T cells, from eight horses, cross-pairing them in vitro so that the stem cells and lymphocytes had differing MHC haplotypes.

In one group, stem cells had been treated with transforming growth factor beta (TGF-2) prior to being added to the lymphocytes in the culture media; the other group was untreated. TGF-2 is a cell-signaling molecule produced by white blood cells that blocks immune responses.

Cultures with treated stem cells had a 50% higher stem cell survival rate than untreated cultures.

We use mesenchymal stem cells to treat musculoskeletal injuries particularly tendon injuries in horses very effectively, Schnabel says.

And while you can extract the secretions from the stem cells, you get better results with the cells themselves. Stem cells arent just a reservoir of secretions, theyre a communications hub that tells other cells what they should be doing. So finding a way to utilize these cells without stimulating immune response gives us better treatment options.

This is a promising pilot study, Berglund says. Our next steps will be to further explore the immune response in vivo, and to look at human cells in vitro, as this work has excellent potential to help humans with these injuries as well.

The research was supported by the National Institutes of Health and the Morris Animal Foundation. Research specialist Julie Long and statistician James Robertson, both with the university, also contributed to the work.

TGF-b2 Reduces the Cell-Mediated Immunogenicity of Equine MHC-Mismatched Bone Marrow-Derived Mesenchymal Stem Cells Without Altering Immunomodulatory PropertiesAlix K. Berglund, Julie M. Long, James B. Robertson, Lauren V. SchnabelCell Dev. Biol., 04 February 2021 https://doi.org/10.3389/fcell.2021.628382

The study, published under a Creative Commons License, can be read here.

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After Bone Marrow Donation Saves 9-Year-Old Boy With Cancer, Boston Mom Fights To Raise Awareness – Here And Now

Posted: at 12:48 am

Every year, about 10,000 people in the U.S. need a stem cell transplant but cant find a donor.

The intense medical procedure, which can help those with leukemia, lymphoma, sickle cell anemia and other blood diseases, can save lives but securing a donor can be like finding a needle in a haystack.

Be The Match is a nonprofit, national registry where people can sign up to donate their stem cells. More than 35 million people around the world have volunteered yet only a small percentage of those donors are Americans, and even the registry admits most Americans dont know it exists.

The mother of a 12-year-old boy with leukemia has set out to change that.

Mandy Goldman is a hairdresser who lives with her husband and four children outside Boston. She remembers the devastating day five years ago when doctors told her the chemotherapy they gave her son Mateo Goldman, 9 years old at the time, didnt work.

They told us that our only option of curing Mateo was a bone marrow transplant, she says, a risky procedure that often involves a host of complications. But they had no other choice, she says.

The family got to work on the monumental task finding Mateo Goldman a close enough match.

Linda Matchan first reported the Goldman familys experience for The Boston Globe. In her research, she found very, very few people had any awareness of the need for bone marrow and stem cells donors. The awareness campaign around the subject is severely lacking compared to other campaigns like the importance of donating blood, she says.

For example, there's a little boy right now in North Carolina named Thor Forte, who's 10 and has sickle cell disease. And he has been waiting for literally half his life, five years, for a donor to be available, Matchan says. He's a tough match, but they finally did find somebody. And then when the time came for the procedure, the person backed out. So two years later, the boy is still waiting.

Fortunately, quickly after finding out Mateo Goldman didnt match with anyone in his family, he was paired with a donor on the registry from Germany. Mandy Goldman says Laura Stterlin of Frankfurt was ready to go and donate, ultimately saving her son.

Mateo Goldman wrote Stterlin, whose name he did not know at the time, a thank you note reading: Dear Donor, thank you for giving me the bone marrow. You feel like youre already part of my family, he says.

And unlike usual Make-A-Wish requests, Mateo Goldman asked to meet Stterlin in person halfway across the world. The trip to Germany was planned for summer of 2020 but has since been canceled due to the pandemic.

In 2019 when she was reporting this story, Matchan had a trip planned to Germany. She ended up meeting Stterlin and hearing the story of how she became a donor. Stterlin said she was at a sporting event with her husband when she got hungry and went on the hunt for some grub.

Dear Donor, thank you for giving me the bone marrow. You feel like youre already part of my family.

Germany has a robust public service campaign to get citizens to donate bone marrow, Matchan says. So it came to no surprise to Stterlin when she came across a kiosk to sign up.

Just three months later, she got a call and an email from the registry saying that there is somebody in the United States for whom she could be a match and was asked if she would donate, Matchan says. A couple of days later, she went into the hospital and did the donation.

Stterlins stem cells then crossed the Atlantic Ocean, making their way to America during a snowstorm.

The cells started working in Mateo Goldman right away but not without some difficulties, Mandy Goldman says. He battled total body stiffness from graft-versus-host disease, a complication of the transplant.

But, you know, Matteo's an amazing kid, she says, so through it all, he was smiling and making the best of it, even though he was suffering for a lot of the time.

Two years later, in July of 2020, the cancer came back. But since Mateo Goldmans first transplant, the science had evolved greatly.

So much so that his older brother, Leo Goldman, became a candidate to donate his cells for the second stem cell transplant.

I didn't realize how I could get my brother's cells, Mateo Goldman, now 12 years old, says. Once that sank in, I felt that it would connect me and my brother more.

Right before Christmas last year, the family got extraordinary news: Mateo Goldman had zero cancer in his bone marrow, Mandy Goldman says.

Now the mom of four is on a mission to raise awareness on stem cell donations and share the story of how it saved her sons life.

The amazing feeling Leo got from being able to be the person who saved his brother's life is something he's going to carry with him forever, she says. And even Laura [Stterlin], she gave him three and a half years of his life that we get to spend with him. I just really want to educate people about how empowering it is to do something so incredible for somebody else.

When she started talking to others to raise awareness, she was shocked to discover how fearful people were in committing to be a donor.

If people could see the trauma these patients go through her son had a drain placed in his stomach, total body radiation, chemotherapy that left him head-to-toe in a skin-burning rash she says then maybe they wouldnt be scared to dedicate a small action for someone whose only cure is through a stem cell transplant.

Once people are educated about how much of a difference it makes, she says, then I feel like they would do it.

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Tinku Rayproduced and edited this interview for broadcast.Serena McMahonadapted it for the web.

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After Bone Marrow Donation Saves 9-Year-Old Boy With Cancer, Boston Mom Fights To Raise Awareness - Here And Now

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Invisible pest causes more than $1 billion in crop losses – The Albany Herald

Posted: January 13, 2021 at 11:54 am

ATHENS A newly published study led by researchers from the University of Georgia and several partner institutions reveals a discovery that could lead to new control strategies for a tiny-but-persistent agricultural pest that causes enormous soybean losses.

Microscopic soybean cyst nematodes (SCN) live in soil and are attracted to the root systems of soybeans. Once a field is infested, it is nearly impossible to root them out, according to lead study investigator Melissa Mitchum, professor of plant nematology in UGAs Department of Plant Pathology and Institute of Plant Breeding, Genetics and Genomics in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences and Center for Applied Genetic Technologies.

Invisible to the naked eye, SCN have unique hollow, protrudable mouth spears called stylets that they use to pierce through the root of a plant, injecting peptide effectors, which mimic the soybeans naturally present CLAVATA3/embryo (CLE) surrounding region peptides to hijack the plant.

After hatching from an egg in the soil, the juvenile nematode migrates into the root, where it sets up a feeding site and makes its way toward the circulatory system that the plant uses to transport nutrients to the rest of the plant.

Once a root cell is chosen for feeding, the nematodes transform it into a syncytium, a mass comprising hundreds of metabolically active cells that continue to secrete CLE, taking over the plants natural cellular processes to export the peptides back out of the cell to function as external signaling molecules to distant cells.

This process diverts resources away from the plant in support of the nutrient demands of the developing nematode. At this point, nematodes change their morphology, turning from wormlike forms into sedentary, lemon-shaped bodies that pop out of the roots, becoming visible to the eye.

Using knowledge that has been developed over the past two decades on how nematode CLEs function, the study, published in the journal New Phytologist, uncovered a new pathway that allows the nematode to disrupt the plants natural growth processes to divert resources for its own benefit. The study also was highlighted in commentary by the editors of New Phytologist.

Weve discovered that early on, when the nematode delivers the CLE peptide to a root cell, the peptide has to reach a plant receptor that binds it so that you get a response in the plant, Mitchum said. We knew that the nematode delivered the peptide into the cytoplasm of the cell, but the receptor is on the outside of the cell.

The study shows that the nematode CLEs provide a way for the nematode peptide to get outside of the cell to interact with the plant protein receptor through the plants secretion system, a process that is not well-studied in plants.

To me it is fascinating because the nematodes have discovered how to co-opt that part of the plant its own secretion system but we dont understand the secretion system they are taking advantage of, Mitchum said. If we can understand how they are doing it, we will likely uncover some novel aspect of plant biology that could have importance to other plant pathosystems. This effector protein is helping us understand plant biology, not just plant pathology.

Normally occurring plant CLE peptides regulate aspects of cell differentiation in the plant, communicating to the plants stem cells, which are constantly regenerating, whether to develop into a root cell, a leaf cell or a cell in another part of the plant.

The next step is to find novel methods to block the nematode peptides from getting out of the feeding cells.

We are trying to figure out how these nematode peptides function because we want to devise a way to interfere with that ability, Mitchum said. If we can block the nematode peptides from getting out of the feeding cells, they will not form properly, and the nematode loses its nutrient source and dies.

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Soybean cyst nematodes are the No. 1 yield-reducing pest of soybean producers, robbing seemingly healthy fields of up to 30% of their yields and costing the industry up to $1 billion every year.

The primary management practice for soybean cyst nematodes is through developing genetic resistance in soybean varieties. Because SCN has a specialized host range, producers can control nematode damage by rotating fields to a non-host crop plant to reduce the population of nematodes in the field. However, the bodies of dead female nematodes form a cyst around them, protecting hundreds of eggs. These cysts can remain in the ground for years, protecting the eggs until a host crop is planted again and the nematodes reemerge.

While creating genetically resistant crops is an effective tool, SCN have adapted to overcome the source of resistance in the commonly used breeding line PI 88788, which is used in more than 90% of resistant varieties currently planted by producers. As a result, yields in resistant varieties can be reduced by up to 14 bushels per acre, according to The SCN Coalition, a public/private partnership of university researchers, national extension specialists and agriculture company representatives who are concerned about the evolving threat from soybean cyst nematodes.

We need to bring awareness to the increased resistance of SCN to the (PI 88788) resistance and come up with novel approaches to combat it, Mitchum said. Targeting the mechanism we have found in this study would be a novel way of addressing this resistance.

Because soybean cyst nematodes are such a widespread pest, Mitchum and UGA Extension plant pathologist Bob Kemerait, with the help of county agents, will launch a statewide survey in 2021 of all soybean-producing counties in Georgia to determine current SCN levels and whether SCN-resistant crops are suffering greater losses due to the nematodes adaptations against resistant varieties.

While Georgia is not a major producer of soybeans with 100,000 acres planted in 2019 at a value of about $240,000 more than 80 million acres were planted nationwide in 2019, with a production value of $31.2 billion, according to the U.S. Department of Agricultures National Agriculture Statistics Service.

From a genetic standpoint, we are working with soybean breeders to diversify the germplasm and working with companies to get new SCN-resistant varieties out to producers while, in parallel, we are doing this kind of basic science research to understand the mechanisms used by the nematode to cause disease so we can interfere with them in a novel way, Mitchum said.

Bringing awareness to the importance of basic science and basic research is a message that needs to come through when discoveries like this are made, she noted.

A lot of times the return on research investment is not as immediate or apparent as it is if you go out and do a field trial and get immediate results, Mitchum said. There has to be a balance we need to invest in research that will have an immediate impact, but if we are going to come up with breakthrough technologies, it is going to be from an investment in this kind of long-term research.

Lead study author Jianying Wang was a former research associate in Mitchums lab. Research partners in the multi-institutional study included Richard S. Hussey, Emeritus Distinguished Research Professor of Nematology at CAES; and CAGT post-doctoral researcher Xunliang Liu; as well as colleagues from University of Missouri, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Iowa State University, North Carolina State University and Cornell University. Mitchum joined UGA in 2019 from the University of Missouris Division of Plant Sciences and Bond Life Sciences Center.

Funding for this work was from the National Science Foundation and the USDA National Institute of Agricultures Agriculture and Food Research Initiative.

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Bayer to acquire Asklepios Bio in foray into gene therapy worth up to $4 billion – Reuters

Posted: at 11:54 am

FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Bayer BAYGn.DE agreed to acquire unlisted U.S. biotech firm Asklepios BioPharmaceutical Inc for as much as $4 billion in a bet on gene therapy with the help of modified viruses.

FILE PHOTO: A bridge is decorated with the logo of a Bayer AG, a German pharmaceutical and chemical maker in Wuppertal, Germany August 9, 2019. REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay/File Photo

Germanys Bayer will pay $2 billion upfront and up to an additional $2 billion in milestone payments contingent on development achievements, it said on Monday.

The North Carolina-based takeover target, also known as AskBio, is trying to use the harmless adeno-associated virus as a delivery device to bring genetic repair kits against a range of diseases into the body.Drugs and farming pesticides maker Bayer needs to upgrade its drug development pipeline amid a weaker outlook for agricultural sales and as it seeks to finalise an $11 billion settlement over claims its Roundup weedkiller causes cancer.

Among AskBios most advanced projects are early tests on volunteers of prospective treatments against Pompe disease - a rare genetic disease causing buildup of a sugar molecule inside cells - as well as against Parkinsons disease and congestive heart failure.

Bayer said the deal complements the 2019 acquisition of BlueRock Therapeutics, a developer of stem cell therapies, and underscores Bayers intention to create a cell and gene therapy business.

AskBio, which was founded in 2001, and BlueRock will exchange information and collaborate but will each operate as independent entities, prompting a pledge from AskBios five main owners, who are co-founders or key scientists, to remain with the firm.

We are staying on board because of the unique structure that Bayer has provided ... Well have the ability to make our science decisions, said Chief Executive Officer and co-founder Sheila Mikhail.

Investors TPG Capital and Vida Ventures are selling a minority stake in the company.

AskBio is also helping other companies with their gene therapy research and production and has licensed experimental drugs to external partners, which has financed much of its own drug development activities. Bayer or AskBio would not provide figures for such fee revenues.

A potential treatment of Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, invented by AskBio is currently being developed in clinical trials by Pfizer PFE.N and this month won fast track here status from U.S. regulators.

Bayer in 2018 moved to lean more strongly on external firms to improve drug development, which analysts say needs a boost to make up for an expected decline in revenues from its two pharma bestsellers from about 2024.

Credit Suisse was financial advisor while Baker McKenzie was legal counsel to Bayer. JP Morgan was financial advisor to AskBio, while Ropes & Gray was legal counsel.

Reporting by Ludwig Burger; Editing by Frances Kerry

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Chancellor Harold L. Martin, on His Plan to Safely Open the Nation’s Largest HCBU During COVID-19 – TIME

Posted: August 23, 2020 at 8:58 am

(Miss this weeks The Leadership Brief? This interview above was delivered to the inbox of Leadership Brief subscribers on Sunday morning, Aug. 23; to receive weekly emails of conversations with the worlds top CEOs and business decisionmakers, click here.)

Education has become as much about logistics as instruction during the COVID-19 crisis, and Harold L. Martin, the chancellor of North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, has spent the summer months immersed in planning to make returning to campus as safe as possible for the schools student body, faculty and staff. With more than 12,500 students, NC A&T is the nations largest historically black university and under Martin, it has become one of the top producers of African American STEM graduates in the country.

Demand for the schools STEM graduates has increased so much in recent years that the school has added multiple job fairs to handle the influx of recruiters from big tech companies.

Classes started Aug. 19 with a hybrid model. About 70% percent of students returned to the Greensboro campus for a combination of virtual and in-person instruction, in classrooms outfitted with plexiglass protections for professors and socially distanced seating. Football and other fall sports have been canceled. Martin, 68, joined TIME for a video conversation about the schools safety protocols, what its like to lead an institution with a rich history in the civil rights movement during a period of national protests against systemic racism (the Greensboro Four, who began the historic 1960 sit-in at the Woolworths lunch counter in Greensboro, were all freshmen at NC A&T and are known locally as the A&T Four), and the selection of Sen. Kamala Harris as the Democratic vice presidential candidate.

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This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Senator Harris embodies so much that is important and worthy about historically black universities, and it is truly a historic moment to see one of our graduates included on the Democratic ticket. We join our friends at Howard in their celebration of this extraordinary development. Having experienced the history-making presidential campaigns of our own alumnus, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, in 1984 and 1988, we know well the national significance of such an electoral event and how it can help many Americans to see HBCUs in a new and perhaps different light.

Its the same argument I gave myself when we spoke to both our boys who are both overachievers academically: that we want you to go to a university where you will have access to the very best faculty and the best friends and the best experiences to grow personally and professionally. And never have compromised in any way, shape or fashion your preparation for your career or for your profession or for access to Americas top graduate and professional schools. We can demonstrate that time and time again, there are very few universities in America that do what we do as well as we do it for African American students.

HBCUs have fared well in federal funding over the past three years. Title III support has increased. $85 million in annual STEM funding for HBCUs was made permanent and year-round funding for Pell Grants was approved. Passage of all of those reflect positively on the president and his administration.

Well, Im insulted quite honestly. Im sort of appalled by the notion that one would make such a claim.

No.

I think he tends to inflame situations and tends to divide versus providing a voice that is healing for our nation on the heels of COVID-19 where theres been evidence of so many missteps by the Administration.

Probably as optimistic as Ive been. I do feel its in a different moment. The corporate boards I serve on, we have a very different conversation with our board members about what this means and how we must rethink the way we do business. I spend enormous amounts of my time engaging with our students, and I believe because of the great history and traditions of our university as an institution actively involved in social change over the decades, and because of my own experiences growing up in America, as an African American individual, overlapping into periods of segregation and Jim Crow, my experiences tell me this feels different. This is more than just about police brutality. This is also very significantly about disparities in America that are embedded in racism through education, health care, unemployment, wealth, et cetera. And no matter how you cut it, were not going to get out of some of these deep-seated race-based disparities until America comes to grip with our racism.

If I look at most people in America, those who have not come from wealth, education has played the biggest part in transforming those individuals lives, including my own. And as a consequence I would say that education is one of the most critical investments we can make in changing the outcomes and trajectory for young people in America.

If I look at most people in America, those who have not come from wealth, education has played the biggest part in transforming those individuals' lives, including my own.

It is a great point of pride for us. The number of corporations and agencies that have come to our university to recruit our graduates over the last five to seven years has grown in record numbers. We have built very strong relationships with Apple, Intel, Google, Facebook, Twitter, for example. Amazon. Silicon Valley recruits our graduates in record numbers, along with a host of organizations and state agencies and federal agencies from around the world.

Its a mixed bag. I believe certainly in the most recent few months following the unfortunate murder of George Floyd for all the world to see, theres a higher level of consciousness around having more meaningful conversations.

I shared this with my corporate colleagues and CEOs of these organizations. Look, you cant continue to come to the table and drop a dime here and a dollar there. Or multiple dollars there. Youre trying to get access to our very best resource, and we have to make big investments to make that happen.

We have seen significant increases in internship opportunities for our students. And weve seen significant increases in corporate contributions and foundation contributions.

Over the years, the military has been one of the leading organizations in America that has valued diversity. It has not all been perfect by any measure, but its been one of the leading organizations that has provided advancement opportunities for people of color. Our ROTC program has become an incredible source of pride for our university. It serves as the hub for all ROTC programs in the region. We attract exceptionally talented students who are engineers and health care providers who are graduating and theyre being commissioned at commencement. And theyre going off to serve America.

My PhD dissertation was a highly theoretical model representing computer systems that were framed as a mathematical model, and if they were interconnected in such a way that these interconnected computers would communicate like cells in the body. Whether I wanted to remain engaged in research and teaching graduates being engaged in scholarship, or be pulled away into administration, that was really a tug-of-war for me.

Guarded but comfortable.

All of our students who are returning to the campus have been checked for symptoms as they move into the residence hall .

We obviously are requiring masking. Safe social distancing. We have a high intensity cleansing protocol on a daily basis and a daily morning ritual of self-assessment, of all students who are living in residence halls. And each of our classrooms was reduced to about 30% occupancy.

They can apply to telework. Weve been very generous in providing those employees the opportunity to tele-work.

About 60% of our faculty will be tele-working this fall.

About 60% of our faculty will be tele-working this fall.

Weve ordered a million masks. And then weve ordered somewhere around 30 to 40,000 branded cloth masks. All students, faculty and staff will get at least two of those.

Our students are responding overall. They are 18, 19, 20 year olds, though, and so we have to continue to remind them of the expectations, quite honestly.

It is an inspiration to me. In every conversation , itll come up. We cant compromise what we do.

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Chancellor Harold L. Martin, on His Plan to Safely Open the Nation's Largest HCBU During COVID-19 - TIME

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Inside the race to ditch formula and grow breast milk in the lab – Wired.co.uk

Posted: at 8:58 am

Like most expectant mothers, Stephanie King had a firm idea of how she wanted the birth of her children to go. But when the time came to have her twins in July 2019, her plans started unravelling.

Stanley, the first twin, was nearly born in the car park. He came so fast that I didnt even get to have gas and air, says King, who lives in Herefordshire in the UK. Soon after, the heartbeat of her second twin Sophia dropped so dramatically that the doctors sent King for an emergency caesarean section. Both babies were fine, but King wasnt. She haemorrhaged severely, losing five litres of blood. As if that wasnt enough, she then developed an antibiotic-resistant infection in her womb, which later spread to her blood and turned septic. Pneumonia followed and then her chest cavity filled with pus, requiring two further surgeries.

It would be eight long weeks before King returned home. On strong antibiotics and hormone replacement therapy, she couldnt safely breastfeed her twins. It was almost more traumatic than what I had been through in the hospital, says King, whose older son self-weaned at the age of three. Because I had breastfed my son for so long, I knew the nutritional benefits breast milk provides.

According to the World Health Organisation, breast milk is an important source of nutrients and energy for infants, protecting against gastrointestinal infections, and helping to reduce obesity risk while improving IQ later on in life, among other benefits. For mothers like King unable to breastfeed yet still wanting to provide their babies human milk the options are limited. Milk banks arent available in every country or city, and marketplaces on Facebook, Craigslist and other online platforms are poorly regulated.

Fengru Lin is trying to find a way around the problem. In January 2019, Lin founded TurtleTree Labs, a Singapore-based startup that is attempting to grow human breast milk in a laboratory. The company starts with stem cells taken from donor breast milk, multiplies them before putting them into a growth fluid within a hollow fibre bioreactor imagine a giant steel cup with hundreds and thousands of little perforated straws, says Lin. There, the cells differentiate into mammary ones and start producing milk. The entire process takes three weeks, says Lin, and the mammary cells can lactate for roughly 200 days.

Its a technique that can theoretically be used to obtain milk from any mammal, as long as stem cells are available. TurtleTree has already successfully produced full-composition cows milk from stem cells in freshly-expressed cow's milk. It now plans to do the same for human milk. Were not trying to replace breastfeeding, which is something were fully behind," says Lin, who was first drawn to the idea of making milk from cells because of a passion for cheesemaking.

More than 80 per cent of new mothers in the US and UK start out breastfeeding, but only half and a third, respectively, still do so exclusively at six months. Globally, this figure is 37 per cent. The reasons vary: some struggle to produce sufficient amounts, while others have to return to work where pumping and storing milk isnt convenient. Many also find expressing milk physically painful, experiencing mastitis, chafed nipples and other excruciating effects. Then there are mothers on medications or undergoing treatments that make it unsafe for them to breastfeed. And sometimes, babies may be premature or too weak to suckle. The fact is mums rely on infant formula, says Lin. Thats where we want to be the next best thing.

While formula has come a long way, especially in the past two decades, it still lacks many nutrients found in breast milk. And thats largely because most infant formulas are based on cow, rather than human, milk. The two contain mostly the same type of molecules but in different proportions, says Alan Kelly, a food scientist at University College Cork in Ireland. And the difference in those levels is very physiologically significant.

The mineral levels in cows milk are much higher and so is its protein content (3.5 versus one per cent), while the carbohydrates levels are significantly lower (roughly 4.5 versus seven per cent), he says. Crucially, there are a group of complex carbohydrates that are unique to human milk. Its now known that oligosaccharides play a huge role in the development of an infant, for example protecting against infections, says Kelly. Infant formula can be tweaked to adjust for some of these differences, but it cant fully replicate the real thing.

And because formula uses cows milk as a starting material, the environmental cost of producing it is also substantial. It takes an estimated 4,700 litres of water to make just one kilogram of milk powder. Formula also frequently contains palm oil, which has a large carbon footprint.

Lab-grown breast milk holds the potential to alleviate some of these problems. Some of it has to do with a renewed interest in sustainability, while the rest is because we now have a much deeper understanding of the different types of cellular agriculture, says Michelle Egger, co-founder of the North Carolina-based startup BioMilq, which is also looking to produce breast milk in the lab.

To everyone else, it sounds like pigs flying, she says. But for us, its just applying science in a way that can help more women.

While both Biomilq and TurtleTree Labs who have each raised more than $3.5 million (2.65m) in funding hope to eventually produce human milk sans breasts, there are some key differences. For one, Biomilq is working directly with mammary epithelial cells rather than stem cells. Its also aiming to sell milk directly to consumers, whereas TurtleTree plans to license its technology to large formula companies.

Any milk made in a lab wont be able to replicate the immune benefits that breastfeeding gives to infants. Human breast milk contains high amounts of antibodies produced in the blood that are then passed on to the baby, giving them some protection against diseases. Breast milk is an extraordinarily complex biofluid, says Natalie Shenker, a breast milk researcher at Imperial College London. Not only does it have hundreds of proteins and more than 200 oligosaccharides, it also comprises a multitude of hormones, fats and beneficial bacteria, which are made elsewhere in the body and transported into mammary cells.

These components which cannot be replicated in the lab are crucial for renal, cell membrane and immune system development, says Shenker. Plus they help keep fluid and electrolyte levels consistent, among other functions.

In addition, breast milk is a dynamic substance that responds to a babys changing needs. Saliva can flow backwards into the milk duct and be a way of signalling to the mother, says fellow breast milk researcher Maryanne Perrin at the University of North Carolina Greensboro. And some studies show that antimicrobial proteins go up with an infant illness.

Shenker adds: [Human milk] is tailored based on the mothers and babys genetics, the environment they live in, the geography, season and even temperature of the day thats how responsive human milk is.

Biological differences aside, a number of hurdles remain before lab-grown milk becomes a reality. For one, firms must find a way to keep the most costly aspects of production the nutrients and lactation media low in order for the milk to be affordable. Scaling up also comes with technical difficulties. TurtleTree Labs is currently optimising their lactation process in a five-litre bioreactor, which they hope to scale up linearly to industrial size ones of 1,000 and 50,000 litres next year. (Biomilq declined to share the size of its reactors.)

Figuring out how to preserve the final product will also be key, says Kelly. Pasteurisation, freezing or dehydrating it into a powder might change some of the milks components and undo some of its advantages.

Safety testing is another big hurdle that the companies will have to overcome. This is not just you and me going to the supermarket and buying food for ourselves, says Perrin. Infants are considered a vulnerable population. Its ethically tricky to conduct clinical trials when such young infants are involved. And because lab-grown breast milk is uncharted waters, regulatory authorities will have to figure out how to classify it and even create a formal breastmilk standard (which doesnt currently exist).

I think the research going into making breast milk in the lab is a wonderful prospect, says King, who was forced to rely on formula to feed her twins in the early weeks, but is now breastfeeding them exclusively. Had I been offered donor milk initially or if this lab-grown breast milk was in full swing, then that is what I would have gone for first.

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