Stem cells have been the focus of many research projects in recent years. There are dozens of groundbreaking stem cell discoveries each year — all of which have the potential to change the face of medicine.

Scientists in the United States have published some of the most important stem cell discoveries. Their latest findings might lead to a treatment for cystic fibrosis (CF), a deadly disease that damages a person’s lungs.

Researchers from the Boston University’s Center for Regenerative Medicine made two stem cell discoveries that may be useful for treating CF. The first discovery involved developing a method that prevents stem cells from creating cells for many organs at once.  Instead, they made the stem cells focus on creating lung cells. These cells could help regenerate and repair the lungs.

The other discovery was a way to convert immature lung cells into airway cells. They accomplished this by turning off a molecular pathway called the Wnt signaling pathway. 

Details of the first discovery have been published in The Journal of Clinical Investigation.  The title of the paper is Prospective isolation of NKX2-1–expressing human lung progenitors derived from pluripotent stem cells.

They made the discovery by experimenting with pluripotent stem cells and the earliest forms of lung cells. They purified the pluripotent cells in a way that ensured only lung cells would be created. This will lead to more effective treatments for patients who need stem cells to treat a lung problem.

The other study was titled “Efficient Derivation of Functional Human Airway Epithelium from Pluripotent Stem Cells via Temporal Regulation of Wnt Signaling.” It was published in the journal Cell Stem Cell.

A PhD student named Katherine McCauley managed to turn off the Wnt signaling pathway, which turned young lung cells into airway cells. She then grew clusters of these cells, which are called bronchospheres. Scientists will be able to grow these clusters of cells and use them for drug testing and analysis — helping find a cure for CF.

Source: Two Stem Cell Discoveries Promise to Advance Cystic Fibrosis Research