New way to preserve human stem cells in the lab

London, Feb 2 (IANS) A team of European scientists has developed a new method to detect human stem cells in a cell culture and preserve them in the laboratory.

Human stem cells that are capable of becoming any other kind of cell in the body have previously only been acquired and cultivated with difficulty.

“With our guidelines, it should be possible for researchers all over the world to obtain these coveted stem cells and, possibly, to develop pioneering treatments with them,” said Zsuzsanna Izsvák from Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) at the Helmholtz Association, Berlin, Germany.

Her team worked with professor Laurence Hurst from University of Bath and colleagues from the Paul Ehrlich Institute in Langen, Germany.

Scientists hope in the future to use pluripotent stem cells, from which it is theoretically possible to cultivate every type of tissue, to cure a variety of diseases.

Most stem cells are primed to some extent to become a certain type of cell.

“However pluripotent stem cells are like a central terminus; they are present earlier in the embryo’s development and so we think their fates can go in any direction and become any type of cell,” said professor Hurst in a paper published the scientific journal Nature Protocols.

In contrast to those of mice, human stem cells removed from embryos in the laboratory quickly lose their original state.

“Naive stem cells usually make up less than five percent of a cell culture,” Izsvák added.

Izsvák notes that their new method is suitable not only for embryonic stem cells but also for induced pluripotent stem cells.

These iPS cells are considered an ethically neutral alternative to embryonic cells, because they are artificially rejuvenated mature cells taken from adults.

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