SCIENTISTS have designed, developed and tested new molecular tools for stem cell research to direct the formation of certain tissue types for use in drug development programmes.
A collaborative team of scientists from Durham University and the North East England Stem Cell Institute (NESCI) have developed two synthetic molecules which can be used to coax stem cells to 'differentiate' - that is, transform into other forms of tissue.
Their use could also help reduce the number of animals used in laboratory research.
The team's results are published in the current issue of the scientific journal, Organic and Biomolecular Chemistry.
The new molecules, called EC23 and EC19*, have been found in robust scientific tests to be far more stable than the naturally-occurring molecule currently used to induce stem cells to differentiate in the laboratory, known as All-trans-retinoic Acid (ATRA). Their use will thus improve the reliability of experiments.
The scientists, who tested the effectiveness of EC23 and EC19 on four types of stem cells, say it is also significant that each individual synthetic molecule has been found to be more effective at causing the cells to transform into specific types of tissue.
For example, EC23 was found to be particularly effective at producing neurons (nerve cells) which can be used in laboratory testing for drugs for brain disorders such as Alzheimer's Disease and Parkinson's Disease.
In contrast, EC19 was found to be particularly effective at producing epithelial cells the cells that line the inner and outer surfaces of the body.
Stem cells are a special type of cell that has the ability to renew other cells in the body. One of the challenges facing stem cell scientists is to find out how these may be re-programmed to become different tissue types.
The team consisted of synthetic chemists, Dr Andrew Whiting and Professor Todd Marde
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