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NanoInk Launches NanoStem Cell Division in Attempt to Tie Nanotech, Stem-Cell Biology

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NanoInk this week announced the launch of its NanoStem Cell division designed to provide “a highly reliable, renewable source of differentiated adult mesenchymal stem cells,” a company official told CBA News this week.

The use of nanotechnology to provide such cells provides researchers with homogenous, reproducible, and stable cell populations, said CEO James Hussey.
“One of the biggest challenges in drug discovery is to find a way of producing” such a cell population, Hussey said. Commonly used human embryonic stem cells and induced pluripotent stem cells are able to differentiate into a variety of cell types, but are not very stable for very long.

“If you talk to scientists who work in the stem-cell field, they are not complaining about the idea; they are complaining about the execution,” he said.

Haris Jamil, vice president for stem cell research, will be the head of the new division. “We think that we will sell chips to people,” Hussey said. “We see as the short-term market pharma companies that are interested in large, homogenous populations of cells so that they can do efficacy and safety testing.”

Hussey said that currently about 70 people work at NanoInk. Of those, approximately six are doing stem cell work and about 12 are doing nanotechnology.

“We will hire additional people as we work with more cell types,” Hussey said.

One of the things that NanoInk has noticed is the ability to use nanopatterning to control the differentiation of stem cells and cell function. For example, “If you lay down a pattern of chemicals, of certain chemistries, into a defined, homogenous pattern, you can make stem cells differentiate into chondrocytes homogenously and completely,” said Hussey, referring to the cells that exclusively make up cartilage.

If scientists take the same adult mesenchymal stem-cell population and change the pattern and the chemistry, they can change them into osteoblasts, or bone cells. And “if you change the chemistry and patterns, you can convert them into adipocytes,” Hussey said, referring to fat cells.

NanoInk has been collaborating for about eight or nine months with what Hussey said is “a major university [that] is about to publish in this area.” He declined to elaborate, though he said the publication is “in process” in a “major journal.”

Hussey explained that NanoInk’s Dip Pen Nanolithography technology for the deposition of nanoscale materials onto a substrate can be used to create homogenous nanopattern chips.

“You put the chips inside the culture, you put the (adult mesenchymal) stem cells on top, and they will attach to the chip, and the chip will [then] communicate to the stem cells what [kind of cells] they should become.”

Recently, scientists have reported that they have been able to create models of genetically inherited diseases using iPS cells (see CBA News, 1/2/09). When asked if one could do something comparable to that using NanoStem’s cells, Hussey said that “we have only made [the] discovery in the last six to nine months that you could manufacture chips with selective chemistry and patterns that control cell growth, differentiation, and cell function.”

He added that the company is still using different chemistries and different cell patterns to identify the different cell types that can be created.

“Our intention is to work with partners to identify the cells in which they are most interested, and provide those cells to them, or provide them with the chips, and let them do their own differentiation of adult stem cells,” Hussey said.

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