Scientists at the Genome Institute of Singapore (GIS) and the National University of Singapore (NUS) have found a way of manipulating embryonic stem cells (ESCs) that could allow stem cells to be produced in a safe and manner for use in clinical treatments.
According to the Scientists, as ESCs have the potential to develop into any cell type within the body, the risk of using ESCs in clinical treatments is that the ESCs may develop into an inappropriate cell type for the tissue or organ that is being treated.
To reduce the risk of such tumour formation and increase the efficiency of generating clinically important cells, the scientists at GIS and NUS used mouse embryonic stem cells (mESCs) to first generate less potent daughter stem cell lines. These daughter stem cells are able to form some but not all cell types.
As such, they cannot form teratomas and they are also efficient in forming specific cell types such as blood vessel cells. At the same time, these daughter stem cells retain the ability of their parental ESCs to grow and multiply on culture dishes and to differentiate to become part of an existing tissue structure.
The results of this research were published in PLoS ONE (December 2006 issue).
This research can help to address two of the most important challenges to the development of therapeutic applications of ESC: namely, (a) how to derive clinically important cell types from ESC in sufficiently large and highly purified amounts for therapy, and (b) how to minimise the risk of tumour formation.
The eventual objective is to transfer this technology for deriving daughter stem cell lines from mice to human ESCs for developing clinical treatments using stem cells.
Dr Lim Sai Kiang of GIS said, "This study using mouse ESCs provides in-principle proof that generating daughter stem cell lines is a viable alternative strategy to circumvent the current challenges in using ESCs for therapy, i.e., efficient production of therapeutic cell types and minimization of the risk of tumour formation. This research will definitely enhance the development of human ESC-based therapies for currently untreatable diseases."