Stem cells used to build bone and fight cancer

January 25, 2018 by Cristy Lytal, University of Southern California
Abigail Zamora will study the cells that cause neuroblastoma, an aggressive cancer that often affects children. Credit: Ed Uthman

This year's Broad Clinical Research Fellows will apply stem cell-based approaches to two prevalent problems: non-healing bone injuries, which affect 5 million Americans each year, and neuroblastoma, the most common solid tumor in children.

Established by The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation in 2015, the Broad Clinical Research Fellowships enable California-certified clinical scientists to engage in research that accelerates the translation of stem cell-related approaches to treat injury and disease. The fellowships are potentially renewable for a second year.

Abigail Zamora, a general surgery resident at Los Angeles County + USC Medical Center, will study the cancer stem that cause neuroblastoma. For children with high-risk metastatic neuroblastoma, the survival rate is currently less than 50 percent. Zamora hopes to improve this prognosis by understanding the molecular signals that drive cancer stem cells to be aggressive, and interfering with those signals.

Further characterization of the role of cancer stem cells in metastatic neuroblastoma may improve treatment and ultimately survival for children suffering from high-risk disease, according to Zamora.

She will perform this research in the lab of her mentor Eugene S. Kim, attending pediatric surgeon at Children's Hospital Los Angeles and associate professor of surgery at the Keck School of Medicine of USC.

"The high impact nature of this research project coupled with Abby's outstanding work ethic and previous basic science experience make her an ideal Broad Clinical Research Fellow," Kim said. "I am confident she will be successful and, through her efforts, make important contributions to both our understanding of the biology and in neuroblastoma and our approach and implementation of novel targeted therapies."

Bone defects

Hyunwoo "Paco" Kang, an orthopedic surgery resident at the Keck School of Medicine, will use stem cells to treat critical-sized bone defects, or fractures that are too large to heal on their own.

A previous Broad Clinical Fellow, R. Kiran Alluri, genetically modified the stem cells to produce a protein, called , that serves as a signal to encourage the production of bone. Kang will build on this progress by loading genetically modified stem cells onto a 3-D printed scaffold, which he then will surgically implant into the injured femurs of rats. If this approach is successful, it will be a first step toward developing a similar treatment for human patients.

Kang will pursue this project under the guidance of his mentor Jay R. Lieberman, a pioneer in the field of gene therapy for bone repair.

"Paco is an extremely intelligent and hard-working individual," said Lieberman, professor and chairman of the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at the Keck School, and professor of biomedical engineering at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering. "He is passionate about scientific discovery, and I know he will do an outstanding job on this project. This fellowship should be a springboard for his development as an academic orthopadic surgeon and hopefully provide him with the tools to direct his own research program some day."

According to Andy McMahon, director of the Eli and Edythe Broad Center for Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Research at USC, surgeon-scientists bring an indispensable perspective to medical research.

"Surgeon-scientists have one foot in the operating room and the other foot in the research lab," McMahon said. "This makes them keenly aware not only of the medical need to find better solutions for patients, but also of the feasibility of applying different therapeutic approaches in a clinical setting. Because of these insights, surgeon-scientists will be critical partners for translating stem cell science into future patient cures."

Explore further: Injured bones reconstructed by gene and stem cell therapies

Related Stories

Injured bones reconstructed by gene and stem cell therapies

May 17, 2017
A Cedars-Sinai-led team of investigators has successfully repaired severe limb fractures in laboratory animals with an innovative technique that cues bone to regrow its own tissue. If found to be safe and effective in humans, ...

Study shows adipose stem cells may be the cell of choice for therapeutic applications

February 24, 2017
An international team of researchers, funded by Morris Animal Foundation, has shown that adipose (fat) stem cells might be the preferred stem cell type for use in canine therapeutic applications, including orthopedic diseases ...

Repair cartilage potentially can heal horribly broken bones

May 11, 2016
Stem cells could one day be stimulated to make a special type of cartilage to help repair large, hard-to-heal bone fractures – a potential boon for doctors treating big-money athletes, USC researchers say.

Gene therapy as a new option for bone defects

December 7, 2012
(Medical Xpress)—Gene therapy involving modified stem cells obtained from fatty tissue and bone marrow could represent a new option for the treatment of severe orthopaedic injuries to the extremities. This treatment has ...

Ground breaking hip and stem cell surgery in Southampton

May 16, 2014
Doctors and scientists in Southampton have completed their first hip surgery with a 3D printed implant and bone stem cell graft.

Genetic factors control regenerative properties of blood-forming stem cells

December 5, 2016
Researchers from the UCLA Department of Medicine, Division of Hematology Oncology and the Eli and Edythe Broad Center of Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Research at UCLA have published two studies that define how key ...

Recommended for you

Study identifies stem cell that gives rise to new bone and cartilage in humans

September 20, 2018
A decade-long effort led by Stanford University School of Medicine scientists has been rewarded with the identification of the human skeletal stem cell.

Scientists grow human esophagus in lab

September 20, 2018
Scientists working to bioengineer the entire human gastrointestinal system in a laboratory now report using pluripotent stem cells to grow human esophageal organoids.

Researchers identify human skeletal stem cells

September 20, 2018
Human skeletal stem cells that become bone, cartilage, or stroma cells have been isolated from fetal and adult bones. This is the first time that skeletal stem cells, which had been observed in rodent models, have been identified ...

A new app enables a smartphone to ID bacteria in just one hour

September 20, 2018
In a potential game changer for the health care industry, a new cell phone app and lab kit now allow a smartphone to identify bacteria from patients anywhere in the world. With the new app, doctors will be able to diagnose ...

Synthetic sandalwood found to prolong human hair growth

September 19, 2018
A team of researchers led by Ralf Paus of the University of Manchester has found that applying sandalwood to the scalp can prolong human hair growth. In their paper published in the journal Nature Communications, the group ...

Zombie cells found in brains of mice prior to cognitive loss

September 19, 2018
Zombie cells are the ones that can't die but are equally unable to perform the functions of a normal cell. These zombie, or senescent, cells are implicated in a number of age-related diseases. And with a new letter in Nature, ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.