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Scientists identify embryonic stem cells by appearance alone
Date:8/27/2007

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (August 27, 2007) Some scientific results are hard to spot, especially in genetic research. Often scientists are unable to physically see if the gene they inserted into a cell has produced the desired trait. To overcome this problem researchers use various genetic markers that contain pieces of foreign DNA that cause cells to, for example, glow when exposed to ultraviolet light.

But scientists in the lab of Whitehead Member Rudolf Jaenisch didnt have to resort to these genetic markers in their latest experiment because the results were easy to see. Building on their widely publicized June Nature paper, which demonstrated that its possible to convert specialized mouse skin cells into unspecialized stem cells, Whitehead postdoctoral researchers Alexander Meissner and Marius Wernig have now identified successfully reprogrammed cells by looks alone.

Their findings, which appear online in the journal Nature Biotechnology on Aug. 27, bring human stem cell therapies a step closer to reality. Before reprogramming can be applied to our own species to generate custom embryonic stem cells, scientists must be able to accomplish it without altering the DNA of the cells involved.

This eliminates one of the major hurdles to reprogramming human cells, says Jaenisch, who is also an MIT professor of biology. If we overcome the other obstacles, this approach could one day provide custom human embryonic stem cells for use in therapy.

Last spring, Wernig and Meissner relied on genetic markers to identify successfully reprogrammed cells. This required them to work with fibroblasts from a genetically modified mouse. The mouse was grown from embryonic stem cells that contained foreign DNA coding for antibiotic resistance. The scientists had strategically inserted these foreign DNA markers at particular points along the genome, next to genes expressed only in embryonic stem cells. All of the cells (including fibroblasts) in the res
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Contact: Ceal Capistrano
capistrano@wi.mit.edu
617-258-5183
Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research
Source:Eurekalert

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