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Stem cell discovery sheds light on placenta development
Date:6/9/2008

oining the stem cells that build the embryo, ES-TS cells joined the stem cells that build the placenta. Furthermore, when scientists transferred the engineered mouse embryos to foster mothers, the ES-TS cells went to work exclusively laying the foundation for the placenta.

"This paper highlights the value of embryonic stem cells for understanding early development," said senior author George Q. Daley, M.D., Ph.D., an associate professor of biological chemistry and molecular pharmacology at Harvard Medical School and an associate professor of pediatrics at Children's Hospital Boston. "Embryonic stem cells are more plastic than we had thought. By simply activating the Ras gene, we changed the fate of embryonic stem cells to an entirely unexpected tissue the placenta. This surprising result has given us an unanticipated insight into early embryo development."

The technique of genetically modifying the cells and growing them in a special medium could be valuable for additional research.

"This is exciting because events that only occur in the early stages of embryonic development are very difficult to study," Lu said. "Just a few models exist, and even in mice, only a limited amount of embryos can be harvested. Now we can culture these cells and have unlimited material to study."

Researchers are only beginning to understand the natural chemical environments that allow for production of different tissues.

"What is nice is that what she has observed in cultures appears to be quite similar to what goes on in early development in animals," said R. Michael Roberts, D.Phil., a professor of molecular biology at the C.S. Bond Life Sciences Center at the University of Missouri-Columbia who did not participate in the research. "Normally, mouse embryonic stem cells aren't easily converted along the pathway to form placental cells, while human embryonic stem cells undergo this transition quite easily. This has always been a puzzle. What
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Contact: John Pastor
jdpastor@ufl.edu
352-273-5815
University of Florida
Source:Eurekalert

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