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Stem-Cell Transplants Restored Pituitary Function in Mice
Date:11/10/2011

By Mary Brophy Marcus
HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, Nov. 10 (HealthDay News) -- A new study by Japanese researchers gives hope that one day people with pituitary gland failure may be able to receive transplants of stem-cell generated tissue to help restore normal function of the gland.

Without the pea-size pituitary gland, which sits at the base of the brain, the body wouldn't survive. It controls the production and function of many hormones, including ones linked to growth, fertility, stress and temperature regulation.

In the new study, published online Nov. 9 in Nature, scientists from the RIKEN Center for Developmental Biology, in Kobe, Japan, cultured embryonic stem cells from mice that then differentiated into various types of hormone-producing endocrine cells in the lab. Next, they transplanted some of the hormone-producing cell tissues (normally made by a healthy pituitary gland in animals) into mice without pituitary glands and were able to restore hormone secretion in the animals.

"We successfully induced their differentiation into mature hormone-producing cells," said study author Dr. Yoshiki Sasai, director of the Neurogenesis and Organogenesis Group at RIKEN, of the embryonic cells they used.

"In particular, adrenocorticotropin (ACTH)-producing cells were most efficiently induced. Therefore, we tested their functionality by transplanting them into mice whose pituitary glands were surgically removed. The transplantation not only recovered the hormone secretion in the mice, but also improved their activity and survival," said Sasai.

While none of the mice without pituitary glands lived longer than eight weeks, most of the grafted mice did survive past eight weeks, he said.

"It is the first study to show a realistic way of making pituitary cells in culture that could ultimately lead to transplant treatment for humans. It is pioneering and landmark research," said pituitary surge
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