Sorting stem cells

January 3rd, 2013 in Biology / Cell & Microbiology

When an embryonic stem cell is in the first stage of its development it has the potential to grow into any type of cell in the body, a state scientists call undifferentiated.

A team of researchers from Scotland has now demonstrated a way to easily distinguish undifferentiated from later-stage stem cells whose fate is sealed. The results are published in the ' (AIP) journal Biomicrofluidics.

The researchers used an electric field to pull stem cells through a fluid in a process called dielectrophoresis. They varied the frequency of the voltage used to generate the electric field and studied how the cells moved, a response that was affected by the cell's .

The researchers found that differentiated stem cells could store a significantly greater charge on their , a characteristic that might be used to effectively identify and separate them from undifferentiated cells.

The researchers write that the wrinkling, folding, and thinning of a cell's membrane as it differentiates may explain why the later-stage cells can store more charge. The sorting method may prove useful in separating cells for biomedical research or ultimately for treatments of diseases such as Parkinson's.

More information: "Dielectrophoresis based discrimination of human embryonic stem cells from differentiating derivatives" is published in the journal Biomicrofluidics: bmf.aip.org/resource/1/biomgb/v6/i4/p044113_s1

Provided by American Institute of Physics

"Sorting stem cells." January 3rd, 2013. http://phys.org/news/2013-01-stem-cells.html