NYSCF Scientists Make Progress Toward Clinical-Grade Bone

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What They Did: A team of NYSCF scientists led by NYSCF – Ralph Lauren Senior Principal Investigator Dr. Giuseppe Maria de Peppo tested whether mesenchymal progenitor cells (cells that may be useful as therapies for cardiovascular, immune, and bone diseases, among others) can be grown from stem cells using substances that do not contain animal-derived compounds—an important qualification for their use in human therapies.

What They Found: The researchers found that mesenchymal progenitor cells grown in media free of animal-derived compounds are equally as viable as those grown in media containing a substance derived from cows. Mesenchymal progenitor cells have never been grown in media free of animal-derived compounds until this study.

Why It Matters: Producing high-quality mesenchymal progenitor cells that meet safety requirements for clinical use is an important step toward bringing cell therapies out of the lab and into the clinic.


Cell replacement therapies hold a great deal of promise for the future of disease treatment. In these therapies, healthy cells are introduced into the body to replace those that are damaged or dying. With stem cells, we can generate versions of healthy cells to use in these therapies, but there are certain guidelines that must be followed to make sure the cells are safe for transplantation into patients. One of these rules is that the cells must be created without the use of any animal-derived compounds.

In a new study from NYSCF Research Institute scientists led by NYSCF – Ralph Lauren Senior Investigator Giuseppe Maria de Peppo, PhD, and published in Stem Cell Research and Therapy, researchers found that viable mesenchymal progenitor (MP) cells could be grown effectively using substances free of animal-derived compounds.

MP cells are important because they resemble another type of cell called a mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs). MSCs are often considered for cell replacement therapies to treat blood, heart, and immune diseases, but they can be scarce and may not always expand well enough to provide the number of cells needed for an effective treatment. MP cells, however, can be produced in large numbers for each patient when generated from induced pluripotent stem cells, and therefore may hold greater promise for cell replacement therapies.

In this study, the researchers were interested in exploring whether functional MP cells could be generated using growth media (substances that prompt cells to grow and multiply) that did not contain animal-derived compounds. The team compared two forms of this media to one containing fetal bovine serum—a substance derived from cows. While the MP cells grown in the media free of animal-derived substances displayed slight differences in their shape, ability to multiply, and gene expression, they were equally as viable as those generated in the media containing fetal bovine serum.

“MP cells are a promising cell type that could have a large impact on treatment of conditions such as bone disease and injury, diabetes, organ transplantation, and heart disease,” remarks Dr. de Peppo. “We are excited to find that functional MP cells can be generated without use of animal-derived compounds, as this brings us closer to developing safe and effective cell therapies.”

Read the press release here.

Paper citation:

GMP-compatible and xeno-free cultivation of mesenchymal progenitors derived from human-induced pluripotent stem cells

McGrath M, Tam E, Sladkova M, AlManaie A, Zimmer M, de Peppo GM. Stem Cell Research and Therapy. DOI: 10.1186/s13287-018-1119-3.

Diseases & Conditions:

Bone & Tissue Engineering