IDIBELL and BST generate a bank of stem cells that can be used as precursors for cell therapy

Scientists led by Dr Anna Veiga and Dr Sergi Querol have generated seven pluripotent stem cell lines from umbilical cord blood, compatible with 20% of the Spanish population.

These induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) are created from adult cells from umbilical cord blood and can be used to produce advanced therapy drugs and test them in clinical trials, for example in retinal regeneration, heart, or immunotherapies.

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Induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) have great therapeutic and regenerative potential as they can transform into any cell in the body and can therefore be used to cure various diseases. This is one of the promises of regenerative medicine, which is gradually making its way into clinical practice.

However, this strategy has a limitation: it requires obtaining cells from a patient, reprogramming them into a pluripotent state and then differentiating them into the required cell type. This is a lengthy process and can cost tens of thousands of euros. It is therefore unfeasible to do it for every patient in need at the population level.

Now, in a study published in Stem Cell Research and Therapy, a team led by Dr Anna Veiga, a researcher at the Bellvitge Biomedical Research Institute (IDIBELL) and the Cell Line Bank (BLC), and Dr Sergi Querol, from the Blood and Tissue Bank (BST), has generated pluripotent stem cells that could be used by a large number of patients and has made them available to the entire research community. This study has been financed with funds from the RETOS call of the Ministry of Science and Innovation (RTC-2017-6000-1).

Having pluripotent cells that are compatible with many people is a scientific breakthrough with great impact on potential medical applications and their economic viability. Doctors and researchers will only need to carry out the differentiation of the cells to be able to develop their research projects or treatments, thus shortening times and reducing costs” says Dr Veiga.

The key is the haplotype, as with transplants.

The lines have been selected according to their haplotype, just as in transplantation. These pluripotent cell lines were generated from altruistically donated umbilical cord blood cells. After a search for the most frequent haplotypes in our population, the cord blood units were selected. The cords with the most frequent haplotypes were chosen to cover the highest possible percentage of the population in order to avoid the rejection that would occur when transplanting cells that are not the patient’s own. In total, seven pluripotent stem cell lines have been generated with which 20% of the population could be covered.

These lines have been generated at the BLC and subsequently expanded and stored in clean rooms at the BST following all the requirements and quality controls necessary for their clinical application. Their capacity to generate different cell types has also been confirmed to validate them as pluripotent cells” explains Dr. Sergi Querol.

Examples of current and future applications

With nearly 150 clinical trials underway, we are likely to see advances in the coming years for which these compatible cells will be important,” explains Dr Veiga. Replacing retinal cells that have stopped working in some blindnesses, regenerating heart cells after a heart attack or insulin-producing cells in diabetic patients, among other trials, are showing promising results.

Moreover, these pluripotent cells also hold promise in the field of immunotherapy, as lymphocytes compatible with the majority of the population could be developed and modified to specifically attack tumour cells, known as CAR-T therapies, which are currently under development.

Dr. Anna Veiga coordinates a COST Action project (Haplo-iPS, a European project) to bring together initiatives in this area of research, which is essential for the proper development of cell therapy with pluripotent stem cell derivatives.



The Bellvitge Biomedical Research Institute (IDIBELL) is a biomedical research center created in 2004. It is participated by the Bellvitge University Hospital and the Viladecans Hospital of the Catalan Institute of Health, the Catalan Institute of Oncology, the University of Barcelona and the City Council of L’Hospitalet de Llobregat.

IDIBELL is a member of the Campus of International Excellence of the University of Barcelona HUBc and is part of the CERCA institution of the Generalitat de Catalunya. In 2009 it became one of the first five Spanish research centers accredited as a health research institute by the Carlos III Health Institute. In addition, it is part of the “HR Excellence in Research” program of the European Union and is a member of EATRIS and REGIC. Since 2018, IDIBELL has been an Accredited Center of the AECC Scientific Foundation (FCAECC).

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