Human urine-derived stem cells have robust regenerative potential

Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center

WINSTON-SALEM, NC – June 28, 2022 – The Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine (WFIRM) researchers who were the first to identify that stem cells in human urine have potential for tissue regenerative effects, continue their investigation into the power of these cells. In their latest published study, they focus on how telomerase activity affects the regenerative potential of these and other types of stem cells.

Telomerase is an enzyme that is essential for the self-renewal and potential of different types of stem cells. Telomerase activity is also closely related to longevity. The research team investigated the regenerative significance of telomerase activity, particularly in terms of characteristic cell surface marker expression, multipotent differentiation capability, chromosomal stability, and safety of in vivo formation of tumors.

Their findings provide a novel perspective to evaluate the capacity of telomerase-positive human urine-derived stem cells to become a wide variety of other cell types, and to be used as an optimal cell source for stem cell therapy or cell-based tissue regeneration.

WFIRM’s Yuanyuan Zhang, Ph.D, lead author of the paper published by Frontiers in Cell and Developmental Biology, said that human urine-derived stem cells can be easily isolated from urine samples which offers clear advantages over stem cells from other sources, like bone marrow or fat tissue which often require a surgical procedure for collection.

“Being able to use a patient’s own stem cells for therapy is considered advantageous because they do not induce immune responses or rejection,” said WFIRM Director Anthony Atala, MD, who is a co-author of the paper. “Additionally, the non-invasive collection method is suitable for rapid clinical translation.”

The study demonstrates that human primary urinary stem cells with positive telomerase activity act as a distinct subpopulation with potential regeneration capacity in both cell growth and its capacity to become other cells, Zhang said. Better understanding of alterations in this cell subpopulation throughout the human lifespan, and how they translate into, aging, kidney damage, or cancer, among others will be beneficial overall.

“As a safe cell source, telomerase-positive human urine-derived stem cells have a robust regenerative potential, which might induce better tissue repair,” said Zhang.

The authors declare that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest. This work is partially supported by Research Grants from the National Institutes of Health NIDDK (R21DK071791), (R56DK100669), NIAID (R21AI152832), and (R03AI165170).

Additional co-authors include: Yingai Shi, Guihua Liu, Rongpei Wu, David L. Mack, Xiuzhi S. Sun, and Xuan Guan.

About the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine: The Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine is recognized as an international leader in translating scientific discovery into clinical therapies, with many world firsts, including the development and implantation of the first engineered organ in a patient. Over 400 people at the institute, the largest in the world, work on more than 40 different tissues and organs. A number of the basic principles of tissue engineering and regenerative medicine were first developed at the institute. WFIRM researchers have successfully engineered replacement tissues and organs in all four categories – flat structures, tubular tissues, hollow organs and solid organs – and 15 different applications of cell/tissue therapy technologies, such as skin, urethras, cartilage, bladders, muscle, kidney, and vaginal organs, have been successfully used in human patients. The institute, which is part of Wake Forest School of Medicine, is located in the Innovation Quarter in downtown Winston-Salem, NC, and is driven by the urgent needs of patients. The institute is making a global difference in regenerative medicine through collaborations with over 400 entities and institutions worldwide, through its government, academic and industry partnerships, its start-up entities, and through major initiatives in breakthrough technologies, such as tissue engineering, cell therapies, diagnostics, drug discovery, biomanufacturing, nanotechnology, gene editing and 3D printing.

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