New method increases supply of embryonic stem cells

Jan 27, 2014

A new method allows for large-scale generation of human embryonic stem cells of high clinical quality. It also allows for production of such cells without destroying any human embryos. The discovery is a big step forward for stem cell research and for the high hopes for replacing damaged cells and thereby curing serious illnesses such as diabetes and Parkinson's disease.

Currently human embryonic are made from surplus in vitro fertilized (IVF) embryos that are not used for the generation of pregnancies. The embryos do not survive the procedure. Therefore it has been illegal in the USA to to use this method for deriving embryonic stem cell lines. Sweden's legislation has been more permissive. It has been possible to generate from excess, early IVF embryos with the permission of the persons donating their eggs and sperm.

An international research team led by Karl Tryggvason, Professor of Medical Chemistry at Karolinska Institutet in Sweden and Professor at Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School in Singapore has, together with Professor Outi Hovatta at Karolinska Institutet, developed a method that makes it possible to use a single cell from an embryo of eight cells. This embryo can then be re-frozen and, theoretically, be placed in a woman's uterus. The method is already used in Pre-implantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD) analyses, where a genetic test is carried out on a single cell of an IVF embryo in order to detect potential hereditary diseases. If mutations are are not detected, the embryo is inserted in the woman's uterus, where it can grow into a healthy child.

"We know that an embryo can survive the removal of a single cell. This makes a great ethical difference," says Karl Tryggvason.

The single stem cell is then cultivated on a bed of a human laminin protein known as LN-521 that is normally associated with in the embryo. This allows the stem cell to duplicate and multiply without being contaminated. Previously the cultivation of stem cells has been done on proteins from animals or on , which have contaminated the stem cells through uninhibited production of thousands of proteins.

"We can cultivate the stem cells in a chemically defined, clinical quality environment. This means that one can produce stem cells on a large scale, with the precision required for pharmaceutical production," says Karl Tryggvason.

Embryonic stem cells are pluripotent and can develop into any kind of cell. This means that they can become dopamine producing cells, insulin producing cells, or , to name but a few of the hopes placed on cell therapy using stem cells.

"Using this technology the supply of human embryonic stem cells is no longer a problem. It will be possible to establish a bank where stem cells can be matched by tissue type, which is important for avoiding transplants being rejected," says Karl Tryggvason.

Explore further: Stem cells on the road to specialization

More information: "Clonal culturing of human embryonic stem cells on laminin-521/E-cadherin matrix in defined and xeno-free environment", Sergey Rodin, Liselotte Antonsson, Colin Niaudet, Oscar E. Simonson, Elina Salmela, Emil M. Hansson, Anna Domogatskaya, Zhijie Xiao, Pauliina Damdimopoulou, Mona Sheikhi, José Inzunza, Ann-Sofie Nilsson, Duncan Baker, Raoul Kuiper, Yi Sun, Elisabeth Blennow, Magnus Nordenskjöld, Karl-Henrik Grinnemo, Juha Kere, Christer Betsholtz, Outi Hovatta and Karl Tryggvason. Nature Communications, online January 27, 2014, DOI: 10.1038/ncomms4195

Related Stories

Breakthrough in stem cell culturing

May 31, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- For the first time, human embryonic stem cells have been cultured under chemically controlled conditions without the use of animal substances, which is essential for future clinical uses. The method has been ...

Stem cells on the road to specialization

Jan 07, 2014

Scientists at the University of Copenhagen have gained new insight into how both early embryonic cells and embryonic stem cells are directed into becoming specialised cell types, like pancreatic and liver ...

A step closer to muscle regeneration

Dec 10, 2013

(Medical Xpress)—Muscle cell therapy to treat some degenerative diseases, including Muscular Dystrophy, could be a more realistic clinical possibility, now that scientists have found a way to isolate muscle cells from embryonic ...

Scientists isolate new human pluripotent stem cells

Oct 31, 2013

One of the obstacles to employing human embryonic stem cells for medical use lies in their very promise: They are born to rapidly differentiate into other cell types. Until now, scientists have not been able ...

Tracking nanodiamond-tagged stem cells

Aug 05, 2013

A method that is used to track the fate of a single stem cell within mouse lung tissue is reported in a study published online this week in Nature Nanotechnology. The method may offer insights into the factors that determ ...

Recommended for you

How calcium regulates mitochondrial carrier proteins

Nov 26, 2014

Mitochondrial carriers are a family of proteins that play the key role of transporting a chemically diverse range of molecules across the inner mitochondrial membrane. Mitochondrial aspartate/glutamate carriers are part of ...

Team conducts unprecedented analysis of microbial ecosystem

Nov 26, 2014

An international team of scientists from the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) and The Luxembourg Centre for Systems Biomedicine (LCSB) have completed a first-of-its-kind microbial analysis of a biological ...

Students create microbe to weaken superbug

Nov 25, 2014

A team of undergraduate students from the University of Waterloo have designed a synthetic organism that may one day help doctors treat MRSA, an antibiotic-resistant superbug.

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.