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Stem cells isolated from monkey eggs continue producing variety of other cells

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. - A line of monkey stem cells, produced without the use of an embryo, has reproduced for more than two years and still retains the capability of differentiating into a variety of tissue types, a research team reports in the current on-line edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Kent Vrana, Ph.D., professor of physiology and pharmacology at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center and the first author on the report, said the stem cells have produced two types of neurons, and many other tissues such as heart, smooth muscle and beating cilia, the tiny hairlike extensions that line the airways.

The research team, from four universities and two private companies, first reported the stem cell line in January 2002 in the journal Science. At that time, some other scientists thought that the stem cell line might stop after several generations.

Vrana reports in the current paper that the stem cells possess the biological properties of indefinite replication found in cancer cells and embryonic stem cells.

These stem cells were developed by a process called parthenogenesis -- using only an egg from a female monkey and no sperm. The resulting multiplying group of cells, called a parthenote, cannot successfully implant into the mother's womb and hence cannot develop any further than what is called the blastocyst stage, essentially a ball of cells.

But the team was able to take cells from that blastocyst and begin the stem cell line, called Cyno-1. Jason Hipp, a Wake Forest graduate student and second author on the paper, said this approach could "bypass the need for creating a competent embryo for the creation of stem cells."

Of great interest is the potential for developing an unlimited number of one type of neuron. These neurons could eventually pave the way for the treatment of Parkinson's disease.

The neurons synthesize a neurotransmitter called dopamine, and are impaired in p
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Contact: Robert Conn
rconn@wfubmc.edu
336-716-4587
Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center
22-Sep-2003


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