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[IPp] Adult Spleen Cells Demonstrate Regenerative Properties

January 19, 2005 06:00 PM US Eastern Timezone 

 Adult Spleen Cells Demonstrate Regenerative Properties Associated with
Embryonic Stem Cells

 BOSTON--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Jan. 19, 2005--The Iacocca Foundation announced today
an update on work conducted at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and funded
by the Iacocca Foundation to investigate the regenerative capabilities of adult
stem cells in the spleen. In 2003, MGH researchers discovered that the spleen
might be a source of adult stem cells that could regenerate the
insulin-producing islets of the pancreas. In a follow-up to that unexpected
finding, members of the same team now report that these potential adult stem
cells in the spleen produce a protein previously believed to be present only
during the embryonic development of mammals. Dr. Faustman and her colleagues
reported the results in an article in the January 19th issue of SAGE KE
(http://sageke.sciencemag.org/), an online resource on the science of aging from
the publishers of the journal Science.

 "There may be a previously undiscovered pocket of primitive stem cells in the
spleen that are important for healing several types of damage or injury," says
Denise Faustman, MD, PhD, director of the MGH Immunobiology Laboratory,
associate professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and senior author of
the SAGE KE report. "If so, these cells could have much broader therapeutic
applications than suggested by our earlier work. For now we are focused on the
role these adult stem cells could play in treating reversing type 1 diabetes."

 The first phase of a clinical trial to study the role of pancreatic islet
regeneration after elimination of autoimmune disease as a way to reverse type 1
diabetes is underway at MGH. This work is being funded by the Iacocca Foundation
alongside a nationwide initiative, JoinLeeNow (www.joinleenow.org), spearheaded
by Lee Iacocca to raise the funds necessary to complete the clinical trials.

 In 2001, Denise Faustman's team found that a treatment designed to address the
autoimmune reaction underlying type 1 diabetes actually cured the disease in
diabetic mice. Late in 2003, they reported the mechanism behind the earlier
discovery: cells from the spleens of donor mice -- intended to train the
diabetic animals' immune systems not to attack islet cells -- were actually
producing new islets. The result suggested that the spleen -- previously
regarded as playing a fairly minor role in stem cells for blood -- might contain
a population of potential islet stem cells. In their pursuit of that finding,
the MGH researchers investigated the possible presence of a protein called Hox11
in these cells. In mammals, Hox11 is a controller of key steps in embryonic
development -- including the formation of the spleen -- but it was not known to
be present in adults under normal circumstances. In some other animals, however,
the protein has an intriguing function: when creatures lik!
 e newts
 regenerate a lost limb or tail, production of Hox11 is radically increased. 

 "We know that if you have a major loss of blood, the spleen is turned on to
supplement the bone marrow in replenishing your blood supply. We may find that
the spleen kicks in to help with many more biological emergencies. What has been
considered a practically unnecessary organ may actually provide critical healing
cells," says Faustman.

 Co-authors of the SAGE KE report are first author Shohta Kodama, MD, PhD, of
the MGH Immunobiology Laboratory, and Miriam Davis, PhD, of George Washington
University. For more information on Massachusetts General hospital and Dr.
Faustman please contact Sue McGreevey at (617) 724-2764.

About the Iacocca Foundation 

 With the proceeds of his best-selling autobiography, Lee A. Iacocca established
the Iacocca Foundation in 1984 in honor of his late wife, Mary K. Iacocca, who
died from complications of type 1 diabetes. The Foundation continues to receive
all royalties from both of Mr. Iacocca's best-selling books. Since 1984, the
Iacocca Foundation has given more than $20 million to diabetes research. More
information is available at www.iacoccafoundation.org.

 Rachel - "I would rather live my life as if there is a God, and die to find out
there isn't, than live my life as if there isn't, and die to find out there is."

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