Top stem cell biologist moves to SAHMRI to supercharge regenerative medicine mission

16 May 2023
Top stem cell biologist moves to SAHMRI to supercharge regenerative medicine mission

Some of the brightest minds in stem cell and cancer research have joined forces under the same roof at SAHMRI and the collaboration could play a major role in improving outcomes for people living with a broad range of blood disorders.

Dr Vashe Chandrakanthan recently made the move to SAHMRI from the University of New South Wales (UNSW) to team up with stem cell specialists, Professor Andrew Zannettino and Professor Stan Gronthos and clinical haematologist, Dr Dan Thomas.

Dr Chandrakanthan’s latest study published in Nature Cell Biology details the development of blood stem cells, which have the capacity to produce all blood cell types.

The study involved transplanting artificially created blood stem cells into a humanised animal model and analysing for any mutations or adverse effects. The results were highly promising, with the cells successfully producing clean, regenerative blood.

“That paper took 12 years to produce and has basically changed our whole understanding of how blood stem cells originate in an embryo. We are now very excited to do the next phase of our research, the part where we translate this for patients, right here in Adelaide. It is a great place to live and work with world-class facilities,” Dr Chandrakanthan said.

“We learned it’s possible to take a patient's fat cells, extract the endothelial cells, cut out any cancerous cells using CRISPR technology and generate regenerative stem cells. Once we have these cells, we can transplant them back into the patient to regenerate blood and tissue.”

Since arriving in Adelaide, Dr Chandrakanthan has been awarded the prestigious bone marrow failure fellowship by Maddie Riewoldt’s Vision, a not-for-profit foundation that raises funds to support ground-breaking research to help children with bone marrow failure.

Dr Chandrakanthan is one of the few world experts that understands the unusual 24-hour window period where true adult stem cells are suddenly formed in blood development from blood vessel cells in the aorta. By carefully studying this process his research can regenerate stem cells from blood vessels with enormous therapeutic potential.

SAHMRI experts agree the development of artificial blood stem cells represents a major step forward for regenerative medicine and could potentially be used to treat all manner of blood disorders, including cancer and bone marrow failure, offering hope to millions of people suffering from blood disorders worldwide.

Dr Chandrakanthan is now working together with his SAHMRI colleagues to manufacture artificial blood stem cells using a microfluidic bioreactor.

The process uses the patient’s own blood and fluid, mitigating any risk of the body rejecting the stem cells when they’re injected.

“Professor Gronthos has incredible knowledge of stromal cells, Professor Zannettino is an expert of blood cell production and Dr Thomas is extremely experienced in clinical translation and manipulating human blood stem cells,” Dr Chandrakanthan said.

“We’ve been in contact with each other online for years working on these ideas, but now we’re all in one place we’ve got a unique opportunity to accelerate this work and achieve something that’s never been done.”

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