A new way to grow human embryonic stem cells in the lab without using animal derived materials has been devised by UC Riverside researchers. This method may bring the use of embryonic stem cells for medical purposes closer to reality.
Noboru Sato, an assistant professor of biochemistry, that the new method may revolutionise cell therapy to treat diseases like Parkinson's and diabetes mellitus.
This advancement attains significance because the majority of researchers presently culture the cells using animal-based materials that can transmit viruses other pathogens to the stem cells, making them unsuitable for medical use.
Sato insists that his method is cleaner and easier to use than conventional methods of culturing human embryonic stem cells.
He says that his method does not result in stem cells with compromised pluripotency - the potential to differentiate into any of the specialized cells of the body such as neurons, cardiac muscles, and insulin-producing cells.
"Until now, it was generally assumed that the hESC colony formation was pivotal for maintaining pluripotency. But we show that pluripotency can be retained independent of close cell-cell contact," Sato said.
Prue Talbot, the director of UCR's Stem Cell Center of which Sato is a member, noted that Sato's discovery could affect the way embryonic stem cells are grown in the future.
"His work is certainly an important step forward in both understanding signal transduction pathways in stem cells and in the development of an improved methodology for culturing stem cells," she said.
A research article descriing the Sato's discovery has been published in the online edition of the Public Library of Science (PLoS) ONE.