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Study Reveals Potential New Source for Adult Stem Cells

August 23, 2007

Biomedical researchers at the University of Texas at Arlington and the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas have observed that some hyperproliferative cells found in the tissue isolated from patients with benign prostate hyperplasia (BPH) may contain a rich source of adult stem cells for cell-based therapy research and, by studying these cellular responses, new therapy may be developed to better treat patients with BPH.

The hyperactivity of smooth muscle cells (stroma) is believed to be the cause of BPH – a non-cancerous condition affecting more than half of all males age 50 and above in which an overgrowth of prostate tissue pushes against the urethra and the bladder.

While conducting a related study, researchers noted that cultured stromal cells derived from adult prostate specimens supplemented with various chemical “cocktails” had undergone spontaneous changes similar to adult mesenchymal stem cells – multipotent cells able to differentiate into other types – and hypothesized that these cells may contain adult stem cells. The new study was conducted in collaboration between the laboratories of Dr. Liping Tang the Bioengineering Department at UT Arlington, and Dr. Victor K. Lin of the Department of Urology at UT Southwestern.

To test their hypothesis, the researchers obtained tissue samples from patients undergoing open prostatectomy or cystoprostatectomy (the removal of the bladder, the seminal vesicles and the prostate) and compared them to normal prostate tissues that were obtained through the National Disease Research Interchange program.

The research team was particularly interested in human pluripotent stem (hPS) cells, which are the primary cultured BPH stromal cells and have two unique characteristics; they do not exhibit markers typical to epithelial cells (covering the lining of body tissue) and have few markers for disease-causing smooth muscle cells.

This study on primary stromal cells from BPH patients resulted in findings that prostate stroma cells possess multipotent stem cell markers, strong proliferative potential and the ability to differentiate or transdifferentiate to muscle-forming, fat-forming and bone-forming lineages. These cell preparations may serve as a potential tool for prostate stem cell research and its role on regulation of prostatic hyperplasia.

These findings have been published in the journal The Prostate (Volume 67, issue 12).

Part of this study was supported by National Institutes of Health grants to Drs. Tang and Lin and an American Heart Association Established Investigator Award to Dr. Tang.