New technology to boost embryonic stem cells supply

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Research
Stockholm, Jan 27: In what is termed as a big leap for stem cell research, scientists have developed a new method that allows for large-scale generation of human embryonic stem cells of high clinical quality.

The technology also allows for production of such cells without destroying any human embryos - bringing hope for replacing damaged cells and, thereby, curing serious illnesses, says the path-breaking study.

The method, developed by an international research team from Sweden - makes it possible to use a single cell from an embryo of eight cells.

"A genetic test is carried out on a single cell of an in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) embryo to detect potential hereditary diseases. If mutations are not detected, the embryo is inserted in the woman's uterus, where it can grow into a healthy child," claimed Karl Tryggvason, professor of medical chemistry at Karolinska Institutet in Sweden.

"We know that an embryo can survive the removal of a single cell. This makes a great ethical difference," added Tryggvason in a study published in the journal Nature Communications.

"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," said co-author and professor Outi Hovatta from Karolinska Institutet.

Currently, human embryonic stem cells are made from surplus IVF embryos that are not used for pregnancies. The embryos, however, do not survive the procedure.

Embryonic stem cells are pluri-potent and can develop into any kind of cell.

They can become dopamine producing cells, insulin producing cells, heart muscle cells or eye cells - to name a few.

"Using this technology, it would be possible to establish a bank where stem cells can be matched by tissue type, which is important for avoiding transplants being rejected," stressed Tryggvason.

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