In a world first, Israeli scientists have obtained male and female stem cells from the same person.
The researchers say they have successfully grown nervous system cells from the stem cells, with genetically identical male and female versions.
They note that the cells of the nervous system are a proof of concept, stating that they are convinced that all human cells can be obtained from stem cells. The breakthrough was described in a peer-reviewed study, in which researchers around the world were offered the stem cells to explore their possibilities.
The Israeli scientists, from the Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem, started with cells donated by a man who had both male and female cells due to a genetic syndrome.
The cells were in an international cell bank, and the technology for obtaining stem cells is not new, but so far no one has taken the initiative. “I really don’t know why it hasn’t been done yet, because the benefits for medical science are very significant,” Professor Benjamin Reubinoff told The Times of Israel.
Reubinoff, who led the research with Dr Ithai Waldhorn, said the stem cells he derived could open up a new approach to investigating disease and medical treatment.
It is known that men and women are often affected differently by medical conditions and treatments. But when researchers attempt to document the differences in order to advance science, they often find themselves stymied.
Indeed, when people are recruited for studies, gender is only one defining factor. It’s often difficult to know whether people react differently to a disease or treatment because of their gender, genes, health status, or a range of other factors.
“For the first time, we now have absolutely genetically identical cells, but in male and female versions,” Reubinoff said. “This means we can compare and contrast how they respond to drugs, or use them to model disease, without the ‘noise’ we’re used to.
“In other words, we will know exactly how cells act differently in male and female forms, instead of trying to glean this information from large studies. In studies, results may be due to gender, but may also be due to genetic differences between participants.
Reubinoff said a potentially endless supply of stem cells can be grown from those in his lab, and these could be used for any number of experiments, at universities, hospitals and pharmaceutical companies.
The search began when Waldhorn located rare cells from a man with Klinefelter syndrome. Normally, females have two X chromosomes, while males have one X chromosome and one Y chromosome. Klinefelter syndrome causes males to have two X chromosomes and one Y chromosome.
The man who donated the cells used by Reubinoff and Waldhorn is unusual among Klinefelter’s patients, in that his blood contains not only the XXY cells that characterize the syndrome, but also small subpopulations of normal male cells. (XY) and females (XX). . This is what allowed Reubinoff and Waldhorn to derive genetically identical stem cells in male and female form.
Reubinoff hopes other researchers will replicate their method with cells from some of Klinefelter’s few other patients who have XX and XY cells.
He said it was essential to explore the difference in how men and women respond to illnesses and drugs. Women have a higher risk of developing, for example, autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis, while men are more likely to have higher morbidity when infected with the COVID-19 and other infectious diseases.
There are also differences in cardiac morbidity and various psychiatric disorders. Additionally, there are gender differences in drug efficacy and side effects.
“This is a breakthrough in gender medicine,” Reubinoff said. “The world of medical science today recognizes the great importance of the differences between women and men.
“The National Institutes of Health in the United States have changed policy in recent years, now requiring that all medical research they fund be conducted equally on both sexes. The unique stem cell system we have developed will lead to new discoveries about gender differences and can help compare drug efficacy and toxicity.
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