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Chemical that turns mouse stem cells into heart muscles discovered by Scripps researchers

A group of researchers from The Skaggs Institute for Chemical Biology at The Scripps Research Institute and from the Genomics Institute of the Novartis Research Foundation (GNF) has identified a small synthetic molecule that can control the fate of embryonic stem cells.

This compound, called cardiogenol C, causes mouse embryonic stem cells to selectively differentiate into "cardiomyocytes," or heart muscle cells, an important step on the road to developing new therapies for repairing damaged heart tissue.

Normally, cells develop along a pathway of increasing specialization. In humans and other mammals, these developmental events are controlled by mechanisms and signaling pathways we are only beginning to understand. One of scientists' great challenges is to find ways to selectively differentiate stem cells into specific cell types.

"It's hard to control which specific lineage the stem cells differentiate into," says Xu Wu, who is a doctoral candidate in the Kellogg School of Science and Technology at Scripps Research. "We have discovered small molecules that can [turn] embryonic stem cells into heart muscle cells."

Wu is the first author of the study to be published in an upcoming issue of the Journal of the American Chemical Society and which was conducted under the direction of Peter G. Schultz, Ph.D., who is a professor of chemistry and Scripps Family Chair of the Skaggs Institute for Chemical Biology at The Scripps Research Institute, and Sheng Ding, Ph.D, who is an assistant professor in the Department of Chemistry at Scripps Research.

Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Therapy

Stem cells have huge potential in medicine because they have the ability to differentiate into many different cell types -- potentially providing cells that have been permanently lost by a patient. For instance, neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson's, in which dopaminergic neurons in the brain are lost, may
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Contact: Jason Bardi
jasonb@scripps.edu
858-784-9254
Scripps Research Institute
17-Feb-2004


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