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Embryonic stem cell strategy advanced with UCSF finding
Date:9/11/2007

converted to embryonic stem cells, thus providing a means of detecting them. The drawbacks of this technique were that it was technically difficult to carry out and, because it involves a foreign gene, would raise safety concerns that would hinder its use in cell-based therapies.

In the current study, the UCSF scientists developed an alternative to this genetically engineered switch technique. They developed serum-free conditions in the cell culture dish that both promoted more successful reprogramming and generated embryonic stem cells that could be detected based on their form and structure, alone.

Scientists are interested in reprogramming because of its potential for developing human embryonic stem cells that contain the genetic makeup of individual patients. In theory, any patients cell, say, a skin cell, could be reprogrammed. If the resulting embryonic stem cell could then be prompted in the culture dish to specialize into one of the various cell types of the body, such as of the heart, lung and brain, the resulting cells could provide the starting point for a host of clinical-research strategies.

Researchers could create dopamine-producing cells from Parkinsons disease patients and study them in the culture dish to learn the earliest steps of disease development. They could also test experimental drugs on such cells in the culture dish.

Alternatively, they could generate healthy specialized cells from patients who had donated their genetic material, and transplant them into tissues -- without the risk of prompting immune rejection -- to treat failing hearts, neurological diseases such as Parkinsons disease and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, spinal cord injury and diabetes.

The reprogramming strategy pioneered by Yamanaka -- who in August began his transition from Kyoto University to the UCSF-affiliated Gladstone Institute of Cardiovascular Disease and UCSF -- involved over-activating four genes in mouse skin ce
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Contact: Jennifer O'Brien
jobrien@pubaff.ucsf.edu
415-476-2557
University of California - San Francisco
Source:Eurekalert

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