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3-D scaffold provides clean, biodegradable structure for stem cell growth
Date:2/2/2010

Medical researchers were shocked to discover that virtually all human embryonic stem cell lines being used in 2005 were contaminated. Animal byproducts used to line Petri dishes had left traces on the human cells. If those cells had been implanted in a human body they likely would have been rejected by the patient's immune system.

Even today, with new stem cell lines approved for use in medical research, there remains a risk that these cells will be contaminated in the same way. Most research labs still use animal-based "feeder layers" because it remains the cheapest and most reliable way to get stem cells to multiply.

Materials scientists at the University of Washington have now created an alternative. They built a three-dimensional scaffold out of a natural material that mimics the binding sites for stem cells, allowing the cells to reproduce on a clean, biodegradable structure. Results published in the journal Biomaterials show that human embryonic stem cells grow and multiply readily on the structure.

"The major challenge for stem cell therapy today is it's very difficult to make a lot of them with high purity," said lead author Miqin Zhang, a UW professor of materials science and engineering. "So far it seems like this material is very good for stem cell renewal."

Medical researchers hope to someday use stem cells to grow new tissues and organs. Key to the research is the fact that new cells maintain the property that holds medical promise the ability to differentiate into any of the more than 220 cell types in the adult human body.

Growing the cells in three dimensions better resembles conditions in the human body. It also allows mass production, which will be needed for any clinical applications.

"Three-dimensional scaffolds are an active area of research," said Carol Ware, a UW professor of comparative medicine and expert on stem cells. "They are not commonly used yet, but will be important to tran
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Contact: Hannah Hickey
hickeyh@uw.edu
206-543-2580
University of Washington
Source:Eurekalert  

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