Up until now, however, stem cell research has been slowed by ethical controversy -- as well as by the rarity of the extraordinary cells themselves.
That could be about to change: A Florida State University research team in Tallahassee, Fla. reports that it has designed a biomedical device that will allow stem cells derived from adult bone marrow to be grown in sufficient quantities to permit far more research -- and allow faster growth of tissues that can be transplanted into patients.
Teng Ma, an assistant professor of chemical and biomedical engineering at the Florida A&M University-FSU College of Engineering, and colleagues have created a device called a perfusion bioreactor that is designed to mimic conditions encountered by adult stem cells within the human body. The reactor bathes stem cell samples in a protein-rich liquid while also simulating the flow of the body's circulatory system.
"Within the human body, each cell is no more than 200 micrometers from a source of nutrients," Ma explained. "The perfusion bioreactor allows us to deliver essential nutrients to stem cells in a manner very similar to what they are used to within the body."
By altering that flow of nutrients to the stem cells, researchers also hope to control what type of cell they ultimately will become, Ma said.
"The perfusion bioreactor can be used to reproduce mesenchymal stem cells and to direct their differentiation into bone, cartilage, muscle, heart muscle, fat or nerve tissue," Ma said. "The tissues grown then will be suitable for clinical transplantation." He added that stem cells can live for up to 40 days within the b
Source:Florida State University