The first stem cells “invisible” to the immune system were created

Stem cells manipulated with this method can be used for universal regenerative medicine therapies

Another important and fundamental step forward for research in the field of regenerative medicine: Dr. Tobias Deuse and his team of researchers at the University of California in San Francisco have succeeded in engineering the first induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs), to make them “invisible” to the immune system and thus avoid rejection during transplantation.

Thanks to this innovative technique, stem cells manipulated with this method can be used for universal regenerative medicine therapies, and are therefore suitable for any patient.

Dr. Deuse, whose study was published this February 18 in the journal Natural Biotechnology, explains how the immune system is unforgiving against everything that is perceived as alien to the body – in order to protect it from possible infections – and how this represents a major obstacle in the case of transplantation of organs, tissues or cells causing their rejection.

This is one of the difficulties that iPSCs present: being cells obtained through a “personalized” approach, i.e. cultivated in a tube from adult cells taken from the same patient, these cells are refractory to reprogramming (from adult cell to primitive cell).

The solution to this problem was found by Deuse and his team in the alteration of three genes that allowed the iPSCs to be transplanted into histocompatibility-mismatched recipient with fully active immune system.

«This is the first time anyone has engineered cells that can be universally transplanted and can survive in immunocompetent recipients without eliciting an immune response,» says Dr. Deuse, adding: «Our technique solves the problem of rejection of stem cells and stem cell-derived tissues, and represents a major advance for the stem cell therapy field».

More information: Hypoimmunogenic derivatives of induced pluripotent stem cells evade immune rejection in fully immunocompetent allogeneic recipients, Nature Biotechnology (2019).

DOI: 10.1038/s41587-019-0016-3