Smooth muscle and vascular endothelial cells induced from pluripotent stem cells could help model rare vascular diseases, according to a study published in Stem Cells Translational Medicine.
Vascular diseases are tricky to study because they are hard to model and human tissue samples are scarce. An appropriate model for real blood vessels could enable researchers to better evaluate the toxicity of new drugs.
Researchers have already found that vascular endothelial cells (iECs) and smooth muscle cells (iSMCs) can be made from human induced pluripotent stem cells, which can differentiate into all different types of adult human cells.
These cells aren’t derived from an intact blood vessel, so they don’t have all the characteristics of “naturally formed” or primary cells.
Researchers from HemoShear Therapeutics and the University of Cambridge designed a study to test if a co-culture of iECs grown on 1 side of a porous membrane and iSMCS on the other side would mimic the function of primary vascular cells when exposed to blood flow.
“While many studies demonstrate the utility of iECs and iSMCs for vascular applications, none to date have provided a direct comparison of primary to iPSC-derived EC and SMCs,” principal investigator and HemoShear co-founder Brian Wamhoff said in prepared remarks. “We did this by simulating normal blood flow through both the co-culture of iPSC-derived cells or primary cells and then again by simulating blood flow through them under advanced inflammatory conditions, such as hardening of the arteries and exposure to drug treatments.”
“While we found that the iPSC-derived cells didn’t perform quite as well as the primary cells under normal blood flow conditions, when it came to advanced inflammatory and drug-related conditions, the iPSCs performed very well,” Wamhoff added. “Thus, we believe this co-culture may have promise for modeling atherosclerosis or other diseases where no primary cells exist or are challenging to procure.”
“Toxicity of drugs to the blood vessels is a major impediment to the development of new therapies,” Dr. Anthony Atala, editor-in-chief of Stem Cells Translational Medicine, said. “This research may result in a viable system for modeling rare vascular diseases and testing new therapeutic approaches.”