Denner said this research, which reflects a fruitful collaboration with co-authors Drs. Colin McGuckin and Nico Forraz at the University of Newcastle Upon Tyne in the United Kingdom, used human umbilical cord blood because it is an especially rich source of fresh adult stem cells and is easily available from donors undergoing Caesarian section deliveries in UTMB hospitals. "However," he added, "embryonic stem cell research was absolutely necessary to teach us how to do this."
Embryonic stem cells have been engineered to produce cardiac, neural, blood, lung and liver progenitor cells that perform many of the functions needed to help replace cells and tissues injured by many diseases, the paper notes. Among the insights into cell and tissue engineering gained from work with embryonic stem cells, it adds, are those "relevant to the engineering of functional equivalents of pancreatic, islet-like, glucose-responsive, insulin-producing cells to treat diabetes."
The researchers said they tested adult stem cells in the laboratory to ensure that they were predisposed to divide. Then they used a previously successful method in which complex signals produced by the embryonic mouse pancreas were used to direct adult stem cells to begin developing, or "differentiating," into islet-like cells.
As they grew these adult stem cells in the laboratory, the researchers conducted other tests in which the cells to be engineered showed evidence of a characteristic, or marker, known as SSEA-4 that was previously thought to exist only in embryoni
Source:University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston