Organ regeneration through stem cells gets closer to reality

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Washington, Feb 27 (ANI): Bringing bio-engineered organs a step closer to reality, scientists have described how a "scaffolding" material extracted from the groin area of mice could be used to grow stem cells from blood, fat, and bone marrow, which could further be used to "grow your own organs".

The advance, by researchers from Stanford and New York University Langone Medical Center, clears two major hurdles to bio-engineered replacement organs- a matrix on which stem cells can form a three-dimensional organ and transplant rejection.

"The ability to provide stem cells with a scaffold to grow and differentiate into mature cells could revolutionize the field of organ transplantation," said Dr. Geoffrey Gurtner, Associate Professor of Surgery at Stanford University and a senior researcher involved in the work.

For the study, the researchers first had to demonstrate that expendable pieces of tissue (called "free flaps") could be sustained in the laboratory.

Thus, they harvested a piece of tissue containing blood vessels, fat, and skin from the groin area of rats, and used a bioreactor to provide nutrients and oxygen to keep it alive.

After that they seeded the extracted tissue with stem cells, and then implanted it back into the animal.

After the tissue was back in the mice, the stem cells continued to grow on their own and the implant was not rejected, which indicated that if the stem cells had been coaxed into becoming an organ, the organ would have "taken hold" in the animal's body.

Other than engineering the stem cells to form a specific organ around the extracted tissue, it was also possible to engineer the cells to express specific proteins, which could pave the way for even greater potential uses of the technology.

The study appears in the March 2009 issue of The FASEB Journal. (ANI)

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