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Stem Cell Test to Determine Cytokine Release Syndrome Ahead of Time

Jun 22, 2015 1:00:31 PM / by Shweta

Another potential application of human stem cells is to recognize side effects of drugs

Biological therapy is a form of treatment that uses biological materials such as antibodies and stem cells. Several biological therapies, including monoclonal antibodies, are now well established as part of the treatment for many diseases such as cancer, transplant rejection, autoimmune disorders, and infections. Personalized medicine is now a key emerging technology in drug development. However, they can cause adverse side effects in humans. Therefore, biologic therapies require the use of human tissue-based bioassays to measures the efficacy and safety of the drug.

Stem cell Stem cell test to predict immune reaction of a new drug in humans. Image Credit:

Professor Jane Mitchell, from the National Heart and Lung Institute at Imperial College London, developed a new test to find out patient-specific responses to biological drugs [1]. Researchers used stem cells to predict how the drugs will affect a person. This approach may help pharmaceutical companies make drug trials much safer in the near future. Furthermore, this new technology can be safely applied to check the efficacy of personalized therapies at the individual level and can potentially prevent unexpected disastrous side effects. In 2006, a drug trial at Northwick Park Hospital turned unfortunate when six healthy male volunteers experienced a high cytokine storm reaction after administration of an antibody to CD28, TGN1412. This event happened despite the drug's passing all preclinical safety testing, including tests on human-isolated T lymphocytes.

Dr. Mitchell and group developed in vitro bioassays where they co-cultured endothelial cells grown from stem cells in the peripheral blood (blood outgrowth endothelial cells) and peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) from the same donor. They further showed that this assay can detect TGN1412 as a toxin, as well as some milder cytokine storm-causing drugs used in cancer treatment. This test can easily predict the patient response to biological drugs even before starting the actual treatment, and in that way treatment can be changed or modified accordingly. Although the study has shown remarkable results, the translational potential of this assay will also require further rigorous testing before its commercialization.

This novel test may bring a whole new approach to personalized medicine. We at HemaCare provide stem cells for your research needs. Collections and processing are conducted in accordance with standard operating procedures (SOPs) to ensure a quality product, every time.


  1. M. Reed, K. E. Paschalaki, R. D. Starke, N. A. Mohamed, G. Sharp, B. Fox, D. Eastwood, A. Bristow, C. Ball, S. Vessillier, T. T. Hansel, S. J. Thorpe, A. M. Randi, R. Stebbings, J. A. Mitchell. An autologous endothelial cell: peripheral blood mononuclear cell assay that detects cytokine storm responses to biologics. The FASEB Journal, 2015


Topics: drug screening, PBMCs, Stem Cells, T lymphocytes, white blood cells, Whole Blood, Basic Research


Written by Shweta

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