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Review article makes case for a new source of cells in the body

As the debate continues on the ethics and therapeutic potential of embryonic versus mature stem cells, Medical College of Georgia researchers are exploring a third group of cells that appears critical to development and capable of making all major types of human tissue.

"VENT cells are a unique category of multi-potent cells," Dr. Douglas P. Dickinson, molecular biologist, says of this cell type that escapes from the bottom of the neural tube early in development, after the tube closes to form the brain.

VENT cells then travel along nerve paths, eventually getting ahead of the nerves, and dispersing throughout the body. "They travel in association with the cranial nerves to target tissues, disperse into those tissues, then, at what is perhaps an endpoint for their stay during development, they differentiate into the same cell type as their neighbors. So they potentially just vanish into the crowd," says Dr. Dickinson who first heard of these cells last year when their discoverer, MCG Developmental Biologist Paul Sohal, gave a lecture at the MCG School of Dentistry. Dr. Dickinson thought these cells might be used to establish a human cell line to enable his studies of the development and function of salivary glands.

While the jury remains out on that question, the cells have helped Dr. Dickinson find new direction in his research: working to learn more about the cells Dr. Sohal first saw in 1995 traveling out of the neural tube of a three-day-old chick embryo.

Dr. Dickinson got a baptism by immersion as lead author on an invited review article published this month in the Journal of Anatomy that examines the near 10-year history of VENT cell research.

The August review article chronicles the cells' discovery and documentation of their presence in every tissue that Dr. Sohal's research team has examined, including the gastrointestinal tract, heart, liver, blood vessels, inner ear and skull. "There aren't a huge number of th
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Contact: Toni Baker
tbaker@mcg.edu
706-721-4421
Medical College of Georgia
26-Aug-2004


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