Stem cell separation: A bottleneck in stem cell therapy



The substantial progress in embryonic stem cell (ESC) research could lead to new possibilities in the treatment of various diseases. Currently, applications of ESC for cell therapy are impeded by the presence of potentially teratoma-forming undifferentiated ESC. Thus, a selective and quantitative removal of undifferentiated ESC from a pool of differentiated and undifferentiated cells is essential before cell therapy. We evaluated the highly selective magnetic activated cell sorting (MACS) method for the quantitative removal of undifferentiated ESC. We found that the clearance rates for undifferentiated ESC decreased with decreasing amount of undifferentiated ESC in the cell pool. Using a simplified model calculation we could predict that, assuming an initial purity of 60%, an estimated 31 steps are required to achieve less than 10–1 cell per 109 cells. Thus, a log clearance rate of 10, which would be necessary for a therapeutically application, is hard to achieve. Our work clearly indicates that the current MACS technology is insufficient to meet the purification needs for cell therapy.