Stemming the tide of diabetes

AURORA, Colo.—Vitro Diagnostics and PhosphoSolutions, both based here, have announced a research collaboration to characterize intracellular signaling mechanisms involved with regulation of stem cell growth and differentiation.

Jeffrey Bouley
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AURORA,Colo.—Vitro Diagnostics and  PhosphoSolutions, both based here, have announced a research collaboration to characterize intracellular signaling mechanisms involved with regulation of stem cell growth and differentiation.
Vitro has developed 29 adult pancreatic stem cell lines and methodologies to induce differentiation of functional human cells from these lines. PhosphoSolutions brings to the mix its skill in making and supplying antibodies to medical researchers, specifically in cancer biology and neuroscience.
Thus PhosphoSolutions can help Vitro with the generation of antibodies which can discriminate a target protein based on its phosphorylation state. Although phosphoproteins represent only 15 to 20 percent of all proteins, they regulate virtually every cellular function, including growth and differentiation, the companies note.
As such, these phosphospecific antibodies can be used to assess the activity of a protein, not simply its level of expression, and according to Dr. Ron Lickteig, a senior scientist at PhosphoSolutions: "Our expertise with antibodies will allow us to study intracellular signaling pathways involved in the growth and differentiation of Vitro's stem cells."
This comes at a time when Vitro is trying to significantly expand its stem cell line. More specifically to that goal, the collaboration looks at stem cell self-renewal mechanisms and pathways involved with differentiation of stem cells into such functional cells as beta cells that synthesize and release insulin, notes Dr. James Posillico, CEO of Vitro Diagnostics.
In 2004, the company began to commercialize its Vitrocell product line, which consists of novel human cell lines for research and development in the areas of diabetes, pancreatic cancer and endocrinology of the pituitary gland. But the company has also been talking recently about expanding the Vitrocell product line to include other human cell lines of medical value, most particularly beta cells, which are destroyed in Type I diabetes. Such lines would be of value in ongoing efforts to develop a cell therapy for the disorder, Posillico notes.

Type I diabetes affects about 15 million people worldwide and could possibly be successfully treated by transplantation of beta islet cells, Vitro suggests. But there "is insufficient supply of transplantable materials to treat the number of afflicted patients and discovery of viable methods to increase the number of available beta islets for transplantation is a major goal of diabetes research," Posillico indicates. Vitro's stem cell lines and associated differentiation methods represent a potential indefinite supply of human beta cells for use in transplantation into diabetic patients, the company says.

The work with PhosphoSolutions also may advance the understanding of stem cell function in a manner that will lead to new approaches to selectively activate the regenerative capacity of adult stem cells or to suppress "overactive signaling pathways" in stem cells thought to underlie the growth of certain cancerous tumors.

Jeffrey Bouley

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