Creation Of Multiple Types Of White Blood Cells Directly From Embryonic And Adult Stem Cells

From MedicalNewsToday.com

In an advance that could help transform embryonic stem cells into a multipurpose medical tool, scientists at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have transformed these versatile cells into progenitors of white blood cells and into six types of mature white blood and immune cells.

While clinical use is some years away, the new technique could produce cells with enormous potential for studying the development and treatment of disease. The technique works equally well with stem cells grown from an embryo and with adult pluripotent stem cells, which are derived from adult cells that have been converted until they resemble embryonic stem cells.

If the adult cells came from people with certain bone marrow diseases, the new technique could produce blood cells with specific defects. It could also be used to grow specific varieties of immune cells that could target specific infections or tumors.

The likely most immediate benefit is cells that can be used for safety screening of new drugs, says study leader Igor Slukvin, an assistant professor in the university’s Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine.

“Toxicity to the blood-forming system is a key limit on drug development, so these cells could be used for safety testing in any drug development,” says Slukvin, who performs research at the National Primate Research Center in Madison.

Bone marrow stem cells are already used to screen drugs, but the new technique promises to produce large quantities of cells in a dish that can be more exactly tailored to the task at hand, without requiring a constant supply of bone marrow cells from donors.

The development of stem cells into mature, specialized cells is governed by trace amounts of biological signaling molecules, so Slukvin and colleagues Kyung-Dal Choi and Maxim Vodyanik exposed two types of highly versatile stem cells to various compounds.

Eventually they found a recipe that would cause the cells to move through a process of progressive specialization into a variety of adult cells. Slukvin’s study was published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation.

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