Scientists at the UCLA Broad Stem Cell Research Center have described a population of cells that mark the very first stage of differentiation of human embryonic stem cells as they enter a developmental pathway that leads to production of blood, heart muscle, blood vessels and bone.
Researchers hope that these cells could one day be used for clinical treatments of a wide range of medical conditions as the discovery may help scientists create better and safer tissues for use in regenerative medicine. It also will allow scientists to better understand the differences between pluripotent stem cells, which can become every cell in the body, and cells that have lost their pluripotency and are on their way to becoming specific types of tissue cells.
The study appears today in the early online edition of the peer-reviewed journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
"Scientists are very interested in understanding how cells that are pluripotent are directed to become specific tissues," said Dr. Gay Crooks, a professor of pathology and laboratory medicine and senior author of the study. "We want to know what it is that switches on and off to make a pluripotent cell no longer be pluripotent. In this study, we found a cell population that can help us understand these processes, as it is such a close relative to embryonic stem cells, but has lost the ability to be pluripotent."
During early development, human embryonic stem cells can follow three distinct developmental pathways to form the primary germ cell layers: the mesoderm, the ectoderm and the endoderm. These three germ cell layers then become all the tissues in the human body. In this study, Crooks and her team studied human embryonic stem cells that followed the mesoderm pathway, which gives rise to blood cells, blood vessels, cardiac cells, muscle, cartilage, bone and fat.
Dr. Denis Evseenko, lead investigator on the studies and an assistant res
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University of California - Los Angeles