U.S. scientists say a new way of genetically modifying human embryonic stem cells would enable rapid development of stem cell lines that could be used for research into human genetic diseases.
The technique, developed by a team at the University of California, San Diego, uses bacterial artificial chromosomes (BACs) to insert defective copies of genes into stem cells.
BACs are synthesized circles of human DNA, which bacteria replicate just like their own chromosomes. When BACs with altered copies of specific genes are placed in human cells, they sometimes pair up with a matching segment of human chromosome and swap segments of DNA.
Using this method, the researchers said, they were able to substitute modified genes in 20 percent of treated stem cells.
"This will help to open up the whole embryonic stem cell field," Yang Xu, a biology professor and director of the study.
"Otherwise, there's really few efficient ways you can study genetics with them," Xu added.
The technique has been described in the January 8 issue of the journal Cell Stem Cell.