News Release

Hematopoietic stem cell culture technology for more effective and safer genome editing

Peer-Reviewed Publication

University of Tsukuba

Tsukuba, Japan—Hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) are rare cells found in the bone marrow that produce red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. Their correct functioning is indispensable for the growth and health of an organism. Accordingly, defects in the DNA of hematopoietic stem cells (mutations) can cause impaired blood production and severe diseases.

Gene therapy seeks to treat such types of genetic diseases. A breakthrough technology that has driven the entire field in recent years is gene editing via clustered regularly interspaced palindromic repeats/Cas9 (CRISPR/Cas9). Using this technology, one can modify disease-causing mutations and transplant HSCs with recovered function, potentially curing the disease.

However, the CRISPR/Cas9 system is not perfect. It only corrects mutations in a small fraction of cells and can introduce new, potentially dangerous mutations into other cells. Therefore, selecting corrected cells before transplantation is crucial.

In 2019, the research group reported a method of expanding HSCs over a long time period using a polymer-based culture system and cytokines. In response to this problem, the authors have developed a novel culture system using a novel high-molecular-weight polymer. This system facilitates the growth of single HSCs in transplantable cell colonies that achieve high blood-producing capacity after long-time ex vivo culture. After editing a mutation in a murine immune deficiency model, the authors individually grow several hundred HSCs and screen them for clones that contain only the desired edit and are expected to engraft successfully. Using this method, the fraction of successfully corrected HSCs used for transplantation can be increased from 20%-30% to 100% while eliminating potentially dangerous mutations from the graft. We believe that this culture system might contribute to improving the efficiency and safety of genome editing in HSCs.

This work was supported by the German Research Foundation (BE 6847/1-1 to H.J.B.), the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS; #20K16234 to M.S.J.L., #23K15315 to H.J.B., #21F21108 and #20K21612 to S.Y.), the Kay Kendall Leukaemia Fund (A.C.W.), the Japan Science and Technology Agency (JST; #18071245 to C.C.), and the Japanese Agency for Medical Research and Development (AMED; #21bm0404077h0001 and #21bm0704055h0002 to S.Y.). The D.G.K. laboratory is supported by a Blood Cancer UK Bennett Fellowship (15008), an ERC Starting Grant (ERC-2016-STG-715371), a CR-UK Programme Foundation award (DCRPGF\100008), the MRC Mouse Genetics Network Haematopoiesis Cluster (MC_PC_21043), and an MRC-AMED joint award (MR/V005502/1).

Original Paper

Title of original paper:
Controlling Genetic Heterogeneity in Gene-edited Hematopoietic Stem Cells by Single Cell Expansion

Cell Stem Cell



Professor YAMAZAKI, Satoshii
Institute of Medicine, University of Tsukuba

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Institute of Medicine

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