Ground-breaking success in adult stem cell research
The team of PD Dr. Charli Kruse in the Department of Professor Peter K. Müller at the Universität zu Lübeck - in cooperation with the Fraunhofer Institute for Biomedical Engineering (St. Ingbert, Berlin) have succeeded in isolating pluripotent adult stem cells from human glandular tissue and from the glandular tissue of rats. The Kruse-Process is the first to produce robust stem cell lines. These have many characteristics of embryonic stem cells, they proliferate well and are able to differentiate into cell types of all three germ layers. The stem cell lines from different donor tissues, cultivated over a year, include those from a 74 year old patient. Durchbruch in der adulten Stammzellforschung
In competition with intensive world-wide research by numerous groups, Dr. Kruse and his team established and repeated this process in only one and a half years. One cell line is now in its 25th passage and remains undifferentiated and stable without a co-culture of other cells and without differentiation-suppressing additives. Cells are also well suited to cryoconservation.
The scientists further showed that cell differentiation can be induced by suitable cultivation. The Lübeck cell lines form "organoid tissues", previously only seen in embryonic stem cells lines, and can replicate into stable, self-proliferating differentiation cultures. Growing these tissues in Petri dishes for several months produces tissue composites of several millimetres in size containing cell types of mesoderm, ectoderm and entoderm. The development of inner organs (circulation, heart, kidney) however, which is characteristic for embryonic stem cells, does not occur in these organoid bodies.
The results are highly significant for stem cell research, as it is now possible to derive stem cells from any vertebrate as well as from the human body, regardless of sex and age. These stem cells can be used for medical and biotechnological applications and pluripotent adult stem cells will soon be available for tissue engineering.
Another extremely important quality of the Lübeck stem cell lines is that they can be preserved in liquid nitrogen without losing their pluripotency. In cooperation with the Fraunhofer-Institute for Biomedical Engineering (IBMT) specially designed substrates were developed to contain stem cell suspensions and "organoid bodies" for long term storage of these valuable cells and aggregates without loss of vitality. The core of a stem cell collection has been started within the Cryobank of the Fraunhofer-Institute for Biomedical Engineering in Sulzbach (Saarland) based on the cryotechnology platform of the Fraunhofer Society. The stem cell lines from Lübeck have already been transferred into this bank. The vision of a stem cell depot from animals and men for later agricultural, biotechnological and medical applications has come a remarkable step closer.
Germany has gained a key position in adult stem cell research due to these results. Now is the time for the association of the funding institutions to use and increase the lead in basic and applied research. Due to the outstanding significance of the results, the Fraunhofer Institute for Biomedical Engineering (St. Ingbert, Saarland) and the Universität zu Lübeck have co-founded a Fraunhofer-IBMT Research Group. This was opened on the University Campus in Lübeck at the beginning of this year by Fraunhofer director, Professor Günter R. Fuhr and the University Rector, Professor Alfred X. Trautwein. The team leader, Dr. Charli Kruse, could therefore continue and intensify his work without interruption and with an immediate financial support.
Because of the high biotechnological-medical potential of the research results, Dr. Kruse's research group has been accepted into an Integrated Project of the European Commission "CellPROM", which aims to define the surface-based induction of the differentiation of cells. The Max Planck Society, the German Science Foundation and the Federal Ministry of Education and Research have been informed of the results and have been included in the further research strategy. The Universität zu Lübeck, the Fraunhofer Institute for Biomedical Engineering (St. Ingbert) and the Max Planck Institutes for Biophysical Chemistry (Göttingen) and Molecular Biomedicine (Münster) formed a research alliance to examine, access and improve the Lübeck results. This initiative between university, basic and applied research, formed in only a few weeks, is an example for swift and research-oriented decisions. It is living prove of the capability and flexibility of the German research institutions, despite many dissident claims.