ORLANDO, Jan. 17, 2012 -- For the first time ever, stem cells from umbilical cords have been converted into other types of cells, which may eventually lead to new treatment options for spinal cord injuries and multiple sclerosis, among other nervous system diseases.
"This is the first time this has been done with non-embryonic stem cells," says James Hickman, a University of Central Florida bioengineer and leader of the research group, whose accomplishment is described in the Jan. 18 issue of the journal ACS Chemical Neuroscience. http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/cn200082q?prevSearch=Hickman&searchHistoryKey=
"We're very excited about where this could lead because it overcomes many of the obstacles present with embryonic stem cells."
Stem cells from umbilical cords do not pose an ethical dilemma because the cells come from a source that would otherwise be discarded. Another major benefit is that umbilical cells generally have not been found to cause immune reactions, which would simplify their potential use in medical treatments.
The pharmaceutical company Geron, based in Menlo Park, Calif., developed a treatment for spinal cord repair based on embryonic stem cells, but it took the company 18 months to get approval from the FDA for human trials due in large part to the ethical and public concerns tied to human embryonic stem cell research. This and other problems recently led to the company shutting down its embryonic stem cell division, highlighting the need for other alternatives.
The main challenge in working with stem cells is figuring out the chemical or other triggers that will convince them to convert into a desired cell type. When the new paper's lead author, Hedvika Davis, a postdoctoral researcher in Hickman's lab, set out to transform umbilical stem cells into olig
|Contact: Barbara Abney|
University of Central Florida