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UCLA scientists isolate the first stages of tissue production in human embryonic stem cells
Date:7/21/2010

earcher in the pathology and laboratory medicine department at UCLA, placed human embryonic stem cells into culture and, after three or four days, found a small subset of the cells that had lost a key cell surface marker characteristic of the pluripotent state and had gained a new marker that is a hallmark of mesodermal cells. Because the markers are displayed on the cell surface, Crooks said, specific antibodies can be used to isolate the human embryonic mesodermal progenitors (hEMP cells) from the other cells in culture.

"The hEMP cells are the earliest stage of cells that are transitioning from human embryonic stem cells into the cells of the mesoderm," she said. "While these hEMP cells appear to be committed to forming mesoderm, they have not yet determined what type of mesodermal tissue they will become. Because of this we hope they may serve as a source to produce large numbers of blood, bone or muscle cells, once we learn how to drive them further along the correct pathway."

Crooks's research program focuses on making blood stem cells from human embryonic stem cells. Studies have shown that the blood stem cells created from human embryonic stem cells in the lab lack some of the functions possessed by the blood stem cells found in bone marrow or umbilical cord blood. As a result, the blood from embryonic stem cells does not develop into an optimal immune system. Crooks hopes that hEMP cells could be used to create blood stem cells as powerful and potent as those found in bone marrow and cord blood, cells that would be safe to use in human to treat such diseases as leukemia and sickle cell anemia.

The hEMP cells were tested extensively to ensure they had lost the ability to form teratomas, encapsulated tumors with tissue or organ components. The ability to create teratomas is a hallmark of embryonic stem cells.

"Researchers agree that it is not a good idea to use pluripotent stem cells in people because of the risk that t
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Contact: Kim Irwin
kirwin@mednet.ucla.edu
310-206-2805
University of California - Los Angeles
Source:Eurekalert

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