A group of researchers from the University of Cambridge have developed a new technique for deriving naïve pluripotent stem cells from human embryos and they have one astounding quality to them: they can develop into any human tissue, other than placenta.
The groundbreaking method is said to open new avenues of research into serious disorders such as Down’s syndrome and even achieve advances in regenerative medicine.
According to researchers, there are two types of human pluripotent stem cells used in regenerative medicine: the ones derived from fertilized egg cells, discarded from IVF procedures and the ones in which skin cells have been reprogrammed to a pluripotent form.
Contrary to the cells mentioned above, the naïve stem cells have all their instructions erased, which makes it easier for scientists to place them into any desired cell.
The researchers from the Wellcome Trust-Medical Research Council Cambridge Stem Cell Institute managed to take cells from the blastocyst and grow them individually.
According to Ge Guo, one of the study’s co-authors, naïve stem cells can be extremely helpful in advancing regenerative medicine, as well as in modeling human disorders.
Jenny Nichols is the senior author of this study and she believes that one of the most exciting applications of this method will be to study disorders derived from cells with an unusual number of chromosomes.
According to lead author Tony Parenti, other researchers may have spotted these cells before, but they probably thought they were defective or cancer-like formations. The Cambridge scientists, on the other hand, chose not to ignore those cells, that others overlooked, and decide to study their characteristics.
These naïve stem cells are also known as induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS) and are basically created through a reactivation process of the embryonic genes in order to reprogram mature adult cells.
Nevertheless, when stem cells are produced, the embryo also creates the so-called XEN cells, which have the role of creating embryonic tissue.
Having this information in mind, researchers started wondering whether these types of cells were also being developed during the conversion of adult cells into iPS cells.
According to Ge Guo, until now researchers were not able to isolate naïve cells, even though they’ve had the technology to perform this in mice for over 30 years.
This technique is of extreme importance for the medical field, as it could help regenerate a vast number of damaged tissues and organs, such as the heart, liver, pancreas etc., savings countless lives in the process.
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