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U-M Study Reveals Surprising Lack of Genetic Diversity in the Most Widely Used Human Embryonic Stem Cell Lines
Date:12/16/2009

ANN ARBOR, Mich., Dec. 16 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ --The most widely used human embryonic stem cell lines lack genetic diversity, a finding that raises social justice questions that must be addressed to ensure that all sectors of society benefit from stem cell advances, according to a University of Michigan research team.

In the first published study of its kind, the U-M team analyzed 47 embryonic stem cell lines, including most of the lines commonly used by stem cell researchers. The scientists determined the genetic ancestry of each line and found that most were derived from donors of northern and western European ancestry.

Several of the lines are of Middle Eastern or southern European ancestry. Two of the lines are of East Asian origin. None of the lines were derived from individuals of recent African ancestry, from Pacific Islanders, or from populations indigenous to the Americas.

In addition, U-M researchers identified several instances in which more than one cell line came from the same embryo donors, further reducing the overall genetic diversity of the most widely available lines.

"Embryonic stem cell research has the potential to change the future of medicine," said Sean Morrison, director of the U-M Center for Stem Cell Biology and one of the study leaders. "But there's a lack of diversity among today's most commonly used human embryonic stem cell lines, which highlights an important social justice issue."

"We expected Europeans to be overrepresented, but we were surprised by how little diversity there is," he said.

For the study, Morrison teamed up with two colleagues at the U-M Life Sciences Institute: stem cell scientist Jack Mosher and population geneticist Noah Rosenberg. Their findings are scheduled to be published online Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine.

A fundamental principle of medical research is that new therapies are tested on
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SOURCE University of Michigan Health System
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