Media Releases

Canadian researchers first worldwide to generate pluripotent stem cells from horses

February 28, 2011

Dis­cov­ery opens avenue for research into new vet­eri­nary and human treat­ments for a range of degen­er­a­tive con­di­tions

TORONTO, ON and Mon­tréal, QC — In a world first, pluripo­tent stem cells have been gen­er­at­ed from hors­es by a team of researchers led by Dr. Andras Nagy at the Samuel Lunen­feld Research Insti­tute of Mount Sinai Hos­pi­tal in Toron­to and Dr. Lawrence Smith at the Uni­ver­sité de Montréal’s Fac­ul­ty of Vet­eri­nary Sci­ence. The find­ings will help enable new stem-cell based regen­er­a­tive ther­a­pies in vet­eri­nary med­i­cine, and because hors­es’ mus­cle and ten­don sys­tems are sim­i­lar to our own, aid the devel­op­ment of pre­clin­i­cal mod­els lead­ing to human appli­ca­tions. The study was pub­lished in the lead­ing jour­nal Stem Cell Reviews and Reports.
These induced pluripo­tent stem (iPS) cells can devel­op into most oth­er cell types and are a source of great hope for use in regen­er­a­tive med­i­cine and the devel­op­ment of new drugs to pre­vent and treat var­i­ous ill­ness­es. One aspect of regen­er­a­tive med­i­cine is the process of cre­at­ing liv­ing, func­tion­al tis­sues to repair or replace tis­sue or organ func­tion lost due to dam­age or dis­ease. “To date, iPS cells have been estab­lished from sev­er­al species, but our study is the first to report the deriva­tion of these change­able cells from hors­es,” Dr. Smith explained.

The research rep­re­sents a break­through for both human and ani­mal health alike. “Equine iPS cells bring new ther­a­peu­tic poten­tial to the vet­eri­nary field, and open up the oppor­tu­ni­ty to val­i­date stem-cell based ther­a­pies before clin­i­cal stud­ies in humans,” Dr. Nagy said. “As well, stem-cell based stud­ies using the horse as a mod­el more close­ly repli­cate human ill­ness­es, when com­pared with stud­ies in mice.”

After two months of repro­gram­ming equine somat­ic cells, the result­ing iPS cell lines expressed hall­mark mark­ers of pluripo­ten­cy, con­tained a cor­rect set of horse chro­mo­somes, and were able to form a full spec­trum of cell types and tis­sues ful­fill­ing the cri­te­ria of pluripo­ten­cy. The term pluripo­ten­cy refers to the abil­i­ty of a stem cell to become any of the vast num­ber of dif­fer­ent cell types found in the body. “This means that the cell lines passed all the tests avail­able to us for deter­min­ing if they tru­ly are what we think they are: pluripo­tent and a good source for future regen­er­a­tive appli­ca­tions,” said Kristi­na Nagy, research asso­ciate in the Nagy lab­o­ra­to­ry and lead author of the study.

“The horse serves as an excel­lent mod­el in which to test cell ther­a­py, both clin­i­cal­ly and exper­i­men­tal­ly, for a range of human degen­er­a­tive dis­eases,” said Dr. Sheila Laver­ty, an equine sur­geon and Pro­fes­sor, Com­par­a­tive Orthopaedic Research Lab­o­ra­to­ry, Fac­ul­ty of Vet­eri­nary Med­i­cine at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Mon­tre­al. “Ten­don, bone and car­ti­lage often heal sub-opti­mal­ly in both and result in a loss of func­tion and long-term dis­abil­i­ty. iPS cell ther­a­py offers tremen­dous hope for enhanc­ing repair and regen­er­a­tion of these tis­sues in both hors­es and humans.” Fur­ther research is under­way to devel­op clin­i­cal treat­ments.

Dr. Andras Nagy is a senior inves­ti­ga­tor at the Lunen­feld and a Pro­fes­sor in the Depart­ment of Mol­e­c­u­lar Genet­ics at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to, the Cana­da Research Chair in Stem Cells and Regen­er­a­tion and a McEwen inves­ti­ga­tor. He received sup­port from the Stem Cell Net­work of Cana­da for this research. Dr. Smith is the Cana­di­an Research Chair in Ani­mal Cloning and Stem Cells and received sup­port from the Cana­di­an Arthri­tis Net­work. His lab plays a key role in the Uni­ver­si­ty of Montreal’s Ani­mal Repro­duc­tion Research Cen­tre.


About the Samuel Lunen­feld Research Insti­tute of Mount Sinai Hos­pi­tal
The Samuel Lunen­feld Research Insti­tute of Mount Sinai Hos­pi­tal, a Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to affil­i­at­ed research cen­tre estab­lished in 1985, is one of the world’s pre­mier cen­tres in bio­med­ical research. Thir­ty-six prin­ci­pal inves­ti­ga­tors lead research in dia­betes, can­cer biol­o­gy, epi­demi­ol­o­gy, stem cell research, wom­en’s and infants’ health, neu­ro­bi­ol­o­gy and sys­tems biol­o­gy. For more infor­ma­tion on the Samuel Lunen­feld Research Insti­tute, please vis­it
About the Ani­mal Repro­duc­tion Research Cen­tre at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Montreal’s Fac­ul­ty of Vet­eri­nary Med­i­cine
Found­ed in 1972, the Uni­ver­si­ty of Montreal’s Ani­mal Repro­duc­tion Research Cen­tre (offi­cial­ly le Cen­tre de recherche en repro­duc­tion ani­male de la Fac­ulté de Médecine véteri­naire de l’Université de Mon­tréal) has devel­oped an inter­na­tion­al­ly rec­og­nized research pro­gramme that includes gene cloning, in-vit­ro fer­til­iza­tion, and the appli­ca­tion of biotech­nolo­gies to ani­mal pro­duc­tions. The Cen­tre is part of a lead­ing com­mu­ni­ty of ani­mal health researchers at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Montreal’s Fac­ul­ty of Vet­eri­nary Med­i­cine.

For more infor­ma­tion, please con­tact:

Karin Flem­ing
Mount Sinai Hos­pi­tal, Samuel Lunen­feld Research Insti­tute
416–586-4800 ext. 2046
416–651-9713 (cell)

William Rail­lant-Clark
Inter­na­tion­al Press Attaché — Attaché de presse inter­na­tion­al
Uni­ver­sité de Mon­tréal
+1–514-343‑7593 (09h00-17h00 heure locale) | Urgence: +1–514-566‑3813