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New stem cell technique improves genetic alteration
Date:3/7/2008

Irvine, Calif., March 7, 2008 UC Irvine researchers have discovered a dramatically improved method for genetically manipulating human embryonic stem cells, making it easier for scientists to study and potentially treat thousands of disorders ranging from Huntingtons disease to muscular dystrophy and diabetes.

The technique for the first time blends two existing cell-handling methods to improve cell survival rates and increase the efficiency of inserting DNA into cells. The new approach is up to 100 times more efficient than current methods at producing human embryonic stem cells with desired genetic alterations.

The ability to generate large quantities of cells with altered genes opens the door to new research into many devastating disorders, said Peter Donovan, professor of biological chemistry and developmental and cell biology at UCI, and co-director of the UCI Sue and Bill Gross Stem Cell Research Center. Not only will it allow us to study diseases more in-depth, it also could be a key step in the successful development of future stem cell therapies.

This study appears online this week in the journal Stem Cells.

Donovan and Leslie Lock, assistant adjunct professor of biological chemistry and developmental and cell biology at UCI, previously identified proteins called growth factors that help keep cells alive. Growth factors are like switches that tell cells how to behave, for example to stay alive, divide or remain a stem cell. Without a signal to stay alive, the cells die.

The UCI scientists Donovan, Lock and Kristi Hohenstein, a stem cell scientist in Donovans lab used those growth factors in the current study to keep cells alive, then they used a technique called nucleofection to insert DNA into the cells. Nucleofection uses electrical pulses to punch tiny holes in the outer layer of a cell through which DNA can enter the cell.

With this technique, scientists can introduce into cells DNA that m
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Contact: Jennifer Fitzenberger
jfitzen@uci.edu
949-824-3969
University of California - Irvine
Source:Eurekalert

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