The new discovery could change regenerative medicine forever.
Scientists from the University of Cambridge has just developed a technique that would allow them to create early stage human stem cells, which could lead to big advances in regenerative medicine and help fight Down syndrome.
The findings, published in the journal Stem Cell Reports, gets around a couple major problems with stem cells: they’re difficult to get, and the cells are usually only of a specific cell type and thus are limited in what they can be used for, according to a statement from the university.
However, these scientists developed a technique that would involve deriving naive pluripotent stem cells from human embryos. Such stem cells are derived from fertilized eggs discarded from in vitro fertilization procedures, as well as skin cells that have been prompted to become stem cells. This could open up new ways to attack Down syndrome, which occurs early in cell development, and could make it easier to regenerate damaged tissue, particularly for difficult to regenerate organs like the heart, brain, and pancreas.
“Until now it hasn’t been possible to isolate these naïve stem cells, even though we’ve had the technology to do it in mice for thirty years – leading some people to doubt it would be possible,” Ge Guo, the study’s first author, said in a statement. “But we’ve managed to extract the cells and grow them individually in culture. Naïve stem cells have many potential applications, from regenerative medicine to modelling human disorders.”
Added Dr. Jenny Nichols, joint senior author of the study: “Even in many ‘normal’ early-stage embryos, we find several cells with an abnormal number of chromosomes. Because we can separate the cells and culture them individually, we could potentially generate ‘healthy’ and ‘affected’ cell lines. This would allow us to generate and compare tissues of two models, one ‘healthy’ and one that is genetically-identical other than the surplus chromosome. This could provide new insights into conditions such as Down’s syndrome.”