Progress - stem cell tests

“for decades researchers have relied on lab
animals to conduct the early  phases of drug testing; but that
has led to many false starts because their physiology is
significantly different from humans.”


http://abclocal.go.com/kgo/story?section=news/health&id=7128867
abc7news. 19 November 2009.
Stem cells allow drug trials in a dish.
Carolyn Johnson

SOUTH SAN FRANCISCO, CA (KGO) -- Bay Area researchers are
working with a technique that could soon revolutionize the way
new medicines are developed. By using stem cells, they are
conducting what amounts to human drug trials, in a dish.
Tiny cardiac cells could be sick, but that is a good thing, at
least for researchers. The cells match those of a patient
suffering from a rare and deadly heart condition. "We can
actually make heart cells right in a dish that's genetically
identical to a person, then we can give drugs to those cells
and have the heart speed up or slow down and so we're doing
clinical trials in a dish right now," Dr. Bruce Conklin said.
Conklin and his team at the Gladstone Institutes at the
University of California, San Francisco, helped pioneer a
revolutionary method of creating and testing new drugs. Their
technique uses induced pluripotent stem cells or IPS cells
cultured from the skin of patients. Those cells are then grown
into specific human tissue for testing.
"To be able to work directly on human tissue, directly on
human heart tissue, directly on human neuronal tissue is a
fantastic leap forward," Conklin said.

    That is because for decades researchers have relied on lab
animals to conduct the early  phases of drug testing; but that
has led to many false starts because their physiology is
significantly different from humans.

But now, South San Francisco-based Ipierian believes it is on
the verge of developing new treatments for neuro-degenerative
diseases using drugs tested first on human nerve cells created
in their lab.
"We have started with skin cells from patients that already
have the disease, turned those skin cells into stem cells and
then turn those stem cells into neurons that also have the
disease," Ipierian senior scientist John Dimos said.
Using the diseased neurons, researchers can test dozens of
samples at a time to see which drugs are working, with
potentially far more accurate results than in animal models.
"What we believe we have the opportunity to do is take actual
cells from patients and to develop an understanding of actual
human disease in the dish," Ipierian CEO John Walker said.
Walker believes testing specific drugs on human cells first,
instead of animals, could ultimately cut the time it takes to
develop new medicines by years.
"We hope to be in the clinic with two different agents to
treat, we hope, both spinal muscular atrophy and ALS, within
the next four year time frame," Walker said. Researchers also
believe the technique could have an impact on animal testing,
perhaps someday dramatically reducing the need for lab
animals.