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Stem Cells From Testes Produce Wide Range of Tissue Types

Work with mice might lead to treatments for diseases such as diabetes and Alzheimer's

WEDNESDAY, Sept. 19 (HealthDay News) -- U.S. researchers say they've successfully reprogrammed adult stem cells from the testes of male mice into a wide variety of cell types, including functional blood vessels, contractile cardiac tissue, and brain cells.

If the same can be done with adult testes stem cells from humans, they may offer a source of new therapies to treat men with health problems such as heart disease, vascular diseases, diabetes, stroke, Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, and even cancer, the researchers said.

The study, by Howard Hughes Medical Institute scientists, is published in the Sept. 20 issue of the journal Nature.

Only a small subset of adult testes cells have the ability to develop into multiple cell types. Until now, scientists haven't had the means to identify and isolate these stem cells.

In this new study, the researchers reported that they had identified a novel cell surface marker called GPR125 that's expressed on a unique set of cells within adult testes -- spermatogonial stem and progenitor cells (SPCs).

Using GPR125, the scientists were able to identify and harvest a large number of SPCs from adult mouse testes. In the lab, the team propagated and reprogrammed the SPCs to become stem cells that could differentiate into a variety of cell types.

"It appears that these specialized GPR125-positive spermatogonial cells could be an easily obtained and manipulated source of stem cells with a similar capability to form new tissues that we see in embryonic stem cells," study author Shahin Rafii, of Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City, said in a prepared statement.

For male patients, this "could someday mean a readily available source of stem cells that gets around ethical issues linked to embryonic stem cells. It also avoids issues linked to tissue transplant rejection, since these autologous cells come from the patient's own body," Rafii said.

More information

The U.S. National Institutes of Health has more about stem cells.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: Howard Hughes Medical Institute, news release, Sept. 19, 2007

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