In the News

2014-03-21 - John Gearhart, PhD, director of the Institute for Regenerative Medicine, is featured in a cover story in the Philadelphia Business Journal about the region being on the brink of becoming a regenerative medicine research and business hub. Philadelphia already has a large inventory of scientific researchers and clinicians and a close proximity to many of the country’s major pharmaceutical companies. “One of the issues is how do we get all of these people together?,” Gearhart asked. “There is a desire to do it, but how do we do it? It’s difficult to build bridges. When does industry invest? How far ahead do you come in and make a large investment when the return is years and years away? What would be ideal is for [state] government to appreciate the economic potential for investing in a hub, perhaps partnering with academic [entities] and venture capital firms to make it a reality."
2014-01-29 - John Gearhart, PhD, director of the Penn Institute for Regenerative Medicine, comments in NBC News.com about a study in which Japanese scientists have made a new type of stem cell using little more than a small amount of an acid, which they say may represent a way to skip the complex and controversial steps that it now takes to make cells to regenerate tissues and organs. The team worked with mice, and found they could get ordinary cells from baby mice to turn into pluripotent stem cells by bathing them in a slightly acidic solution. They call them stimulus-triggered acquisition of pluripotency, or STAP, cells. As with any pluripotent stem cell type, there’s a big danger, notes Gearhart, that the cells could turn into tumors. And the team will also have to show this works on human cells.
2014-01-08 - Kenneth Zaret, Associate Director of Penn Institute for Regenerative Medicine, has focused on understanding how transcription factors—proteins that control which genes in a cell are expressed—work in stem cells. His lab recently explored the idea of reprogramming cancer cells so they act like embryonic stem cells, which can become just about any type of cell in the body. Because transcription factors in embryonic stem cells guide early organ development, the researchers thought that forcing cancer cells back to an embryonic state might allow the transcription factors to reproduce the early stages of cancer. This could then provide a model for studying the early development of pancreatic cancer.
2013-12-16 - A pathway known for its role in regulating adult stem cells has been shown to be important for hair follicle proliferation, but contrary to previous studies, is not required within hair follicle stem cells for their survival, according to researchers with the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. A new study, published in Cell Stem Cell, identifies a molecular pathway that can be activated to prompt hair growth of dormant hair follicles, or blocked to prevent growth of unwanted hair.