Archive for the ‘stem cells’ Category

New stem cells already showing promise

December 7, 2007

Scientists have the first evidence that those “reprogrammed stem cells” that made headlines last month really have the potential to treat disease: They used skin from the tails of sick mice to cure the rodents of sickle cell anemia.

At issue: Turning adult cells into ones that mimic embryonic stem cells, master cells that can turn into any type of tissue. When scientists announced last month that they had successfully engineered embryo-like stem cells from human skin, it was hailed as a possible alternative to ethically fraught embryo research.

Scientists in Alabama and Massachusetts reported a key next step when they used the technique to give mice with sickle cell anemia a healthy new blood supply.

Source:  Associated Press

Stem Cells: Beyond the Hype, Engineers Look to Build Fast

November 28, 2007

Even on the fast-paced, 0pen-source highway of biology, it’s a long road from breakthrough to application—one usually built by engineers, who figure out how to take the delicate results of lab experiments and make them robust enough to survive the onslaught of industry.

That’s why, for biomedical engineers like Peter Zandstra, last week’s news that embryonic stem cells had been created from human skin cells came as a beginning, not an end.

“It’s a huge step,” Zandstra says. “But the stem cells themselves are not useful for anything. That was the problem before this announcement—and that’s still the problem today.”

The good news is that stem-cell engineers, however under-the-radar, had recently been laying the groundwork.

Source:  Popular Mechanics

New Stem Cell Method Could Ease Ethical Concerns

November 21, 2007

Two teams of scientists are reporting today that they turned human skin cells into what appear to be embryonic stem cells without having to make or destroy an embryo — a feat that could quell the ethical debate troubling the field.

All they had to do, the scientists said, was add four genes. The genes reprogrammed the chromosomes of the skin cells, making the cells into blank slates that should be able to turn into any of the 220 cell types of the human body, be it heart, brain, blood or bone. Until now, the only way to get such human universal cells was to pluck them from a human embryo several days after fertilization, destroying the embryo in the process.

The reprogrammed skin cells may yet prove to have subtle differences from embryonic stem cells that come directly from human embryos, and the new method includes potentially risky steps, like introducing a cancer gene. But stem cell researchers say they are confident that it will not take long to perfect the method and that today’s drawbacks will prove to be temporary.

Source:  New York Times

Dolly creator to pursue new way to create stem cells

November 17, 2007

The Scottish scientist who created Dolly the sheep more than a decade ago said he is abandoning the cloning technique that he pioneered to pursue a new technique that can create stem cells without an embryo.

Ian Wilmut, who led the team that created Dolly in 1996, believes a rival method pioneered in Japan that creates stem cells from fragments of skin is better for growing tissue that can be used to treat people who are paralyzed or have illnesses ranging from diabetes to Parkinson’s disease.

Wilmut’s announcement could mark the end of therapeutic cloning, in which DNA is inserted into an unfertilized egg, an embryo is produced and stem cells are harvested, the newspaper said. Tens of millions of dollars have been spent worldwide on therapeutic cloning research in the past decade, but nobody has made it work in humans.

Source:  Associated Press

Testicle stem cell harvest plan

September 19, 2007

Stem cellA man’s testicles might be a source of stem cells to help him fight serious diseases, US scientists have shown.

They extracted early-stage sperm cells from mice, then turned them into cells capable of becoming different tissues.

Writing in Nature, the Weill Cornell Medical College team said their work might lead to treatments for illnesses such as Alzheimer’s and diabetes.

However, some doubt has been expressed on the willingness of men to undergo the procedure to extract the cells.  (You don’t say)

Source:  BBC News

Biologists Are Making Skin Cells Work Like Stem Cells

June 7, 2007

In a surprising advance that could sidestep the ethical debates surrounding stem cell biology, researchers have come much closer to a major goal of regenerative medicine, the conversion of a patient’s cells into specialized tissues that might replace those lost to disease.

The advance is an easy-to-use technique for reprogramming a skin cell of a mouse back to the embryonic state. Embryonic cells can be induced in the laboratory to develop into many of the body’s major tissues.

If the technique can be adapted to human cells, researchers could use a patient’s skin cells to generate new heart, liver or kidney cells that might be transplantable and would not be rejected by the patient’s immune system. But scientists say they cannot predict when they can overcome the considerable problems in adapting the method to human cells.

Source:  New York Times

Simple switch turns cells embryonic

June 6, 2007

Research reported this week by three different groups shows that normal skin cells can be reprogrammed to an embryonic state in mice. The race is now on to apply the surprisingly straightforward procedure to human cells.

If researchers succeed, it will make it relatively easy to produce cells that seem indistinguishable from embryonic stem cells, and that are genetically matched to individual patients. There are limits to how useful and safe these would be for therapeutic use in the near term, but they should quickly prove a boon in the lab.

“It would change the way we see things quite dramatically,” says Alan Trounson of Monash University in Victoria, Australia. Trounson wasn’t involved in the new work but says he plans to start using the technique “tomorrow”. “I can think of a dozen experiments right now — and they’re all good ones,” he says.

In theory, embryonic stem cells can propagate themselves indefinitely and are able to become any type of cell in the body. But so far, the only way to obtain embryonic stem cells involves destroying an embryo, and to get a genetic match for a patient would mean, in effect, cloning that person — all of which raise difficult ethical questions.

Source:  Nature

Banking on Stem Cells

May 31, 2007

 stem cell

A San Francisco company hs announced that they would be the first to offer IVF patients the option of growing, freezing and banking their own embryonic stem cells.

Until now, couples undergoing in vitro fertilization could not earmark stem cells derived from their embryos for their own future use; they could only donate them to the nationwide pool of embryos used for stem cell research.

Somewhere between 400,000 and 500,000 such embryos lie in frozen animation in IVF clinics across the U.S. Couples have the option of keeping these embryos frozen, discarding them, donating them to other infertile couples, or making them available for study.

Source:  Time magazine

Stem cells coaxed into growing hair

May 17, 2007

Scientists have coaxed stem cells into growing hair for the first time, it has been revealed.

Currently, if men affected by baldness are unhappy about their appearance they are limited to choosing between a comb-over, a toupee or a transplant.  But within a decade, advances in stem cell science could help them to regrow their own hair where it has been lost.

The breakthrough could also lead to new treatments for other conditions, such as alopecia, in which hair is lost in patches.  Writing in the journal Nature, the scientists described how they had shown that adult mammals are able to grow new hair follicles.

Source:  Daily Mail 

Stem cell study homes in on ALS cause

April 15, 2007

Mutated nerve cells called glial cells may secrete the poisons that cause amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, researchers reported on Sunday.

Two reports published in the journal Nature Neuroscience may show new ways to treat the degenerative nerve disease, which slowly paralyzes its victims until they die.

Both studies used embryonic stem cells from mice to generate batches of cells that mimicked the disease. The researchers said the studies demonstrate that embryonic stem cells can be vital for basic medical research.

Such batches of cells could also be used to test new drugs to treat the incurable and almost always ALS, also known as motor neuron disease.

Source:  Associated Press