Thursday, June 21, 2007

Stem Cells from Skin

"These cells should provide a valuable resource for tissue repair and for organs as well," said Anthony Atala, M.D., director of the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine and senior researcher on the project. "Because these cells are taken from a patient's own skin, there would not be problems with organ or tissue rejection."

The research team grew mesenchymal stem cells, a type of stem cell normally found in bone marrow. Using tissue samples from 15 donors who had routine circumcisions, the scientists were able to isolate single stem cells, which they then grew in culture dishes in the laboratory. The scientists used hormones and growth factors to coax the stem cells into becoming fat, muscle and bone cells.

When the differentiated cells were seeded onto three-dimensional molds and implanted in mice, they maintained features consistent with bone, muscle and fat tissue. "Our study shows that stem cells can be obtained from a simple skin biopsy and can be made to become three vital tissues," said Shay Soker, Ph.D., associate professor of surgery at Wake Forest's School of Medicine, which is part of Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center. "The bulk of our bodies is made up of fat, muscle and bone."

The promise of stem cells lies in their ability to develop into specialized types of cells and to replicate themselves. Scientists hope to harness the potential of stem cells and use them to replace damaged cells and tissue in conditions such as spinal cord injuries, diabetes, Alzheimer's disease, stroke and burns.

Read the rest at Science Daily

Admittedly, from what information this article gives, that's far from ideal. Ideally, you'd use skin cells to produce pluripotent cells (Meaning the can produce any cell in the human body, like an embryonic stem cell does.). The only real revelation here is that you can produce the cells from skin, we already knew that you could get multipotent stem cells from the bone marrow. But just you wait...

With a few strokes of genetic trickery, scientists have transformed mouse skin cells into embryonic stem cells and proved their potency by using the new cells to produce baby mice.

The experiments are seen as a major advance for regenerative medicine, which aims to custom-build tissues and cells to repair ailing and aging bodies.

Scientists caution there are serious safety issues that must be resolved before the techniques could ever be used on people, but they say the advance points to a new way of making embryonic stem cells for patients from their own cells.

More at

The main problem with stem cells, is they share so much in common with cancer cells, that they often form tumors that become cancerous. I mean, think about it, what are the main characteristics of the general stem cell AND cancer cells:

1) They proliferate.
2) They differentiate.
3) They migrate.

I'm no geneticist, but I'll leave it at that.

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