BOSTON – For the first time, researchers have successfully created airway basal stem cells in vitro from induced pluripotent stem cells by reprogramming blood cells taken from patients. Given that airway basal cells are defined as stem cells of the airways because they can regenerate the airway epithelium in response to injury, this study may help accelerate research on diseases impacting the airway, including COVID-19, influenza, asthma and cystic fibrosis. Led by researchers at the Center for Regenerative Medicine at Boston Medical Center and Boston University (CReM), in collaboration with The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth), these findings represent a critical first step towards airway regeneration, which will advance the field of regenerative medicine as it relates to airway and lung diseases.
Published in Cell Stem Cell, the novel study outlines how to efficiently generate and purify large quantities of airway basal stem cells using patient samples. This allows for the development of individual, disease-specific airway basal stem cells in a lab that can be used to develop disease models, which may ultimately lead to drug development and a platform in which targeted drug approaches can be tested. The study’s findings and cells will be shared freely given the CReM’s “Open Source Biology” philosophy, or sharing of information and findings that will help advance science across the globe.
“Simply put, we have developed a way to reproduce patient-specific airway basal cells in the lab, with the ultimate goal of being