Irvine, Calif., Dec. 20, 2007 UC Irvine scientists have found a new way to sort stem cells that should be quicker, easier and more cost-effective than current methods. The technique could in the future expedite therapies for people with conditions ranging from brain and spinal cord damage to Alzheimers and Parkinsons diseases.
The method uses electrodes on a tiny, inch-long glass slide to sort cells by their electric charges and has been used in cancer research. The stem cell field suffers from a lack of tools for identifying and sorting cells. This important discovery could add a new tool to current sorting methods, which generally require expensive, bulky equipment.
For therapeutic purposes, we want stem cells to turn into specific cell types once they have been transplanted. The trick to doing this is identifying beforehand which cells will become the desired cell type, such as a neuron, said Lisa Flanagan, lead author of the study and a stem cell biologist at UCI. We have discovered a new, potentially better way to do this by focusing on the electric properties of the cells.
This study appears online Dec. 20 in the journal Stem Cells.
The technique used by the scientists, called dielectrophoresis, is based on the premise that different types of cells have different electric properties. Stem cells that are destined to become neurons, for example, have a different electric charge than stem cells that will become astrocytes, another type of brain cell. The scientists discovered that the cells react differently when electric fields are applied. At one frequency, a neuron will be attracted to an electrode but an astrocyte will not, and at a different frequency, an astrocyte will be attracted but a neuron will not.
Identifying and sorting stem cells is important when creating stem cell-based therapies. Without a purification process, stem cell transplantations can cause tumors or be rejected by the bodys immune sy
|Contact: Jennifer Fitzenberger|
University of California - Irvine