Adult and post-natal stem cells are often overlooked in favor of embryonic stem cells in the national debate over the therapeutic use of stem cells. Until now, it has been generally believed that embryonic stem cells had a greater capacity to multiply than post-natal stem cells, making them more desirable to research as a potential treatment, according to Johnny Huard, PhD, director of the Growth and Development Laboratory at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh.
"Scientists have typically believed that adult or post-natal stem cells grow old and die much sooner than embryonic stem cells, but this study demonstrates that is not the case," said Dr. Huard, senior author of the study. "The entire world is closely following the advances in stem cell research, and everyone is interested in the potential of stem cells to treat everything from diabetes to Parkinson's disease. But there are also many ethical concerns surrounding the use of embryonic stem cells, concerns that you don't have with post-natal or adult stem cells. My belief is that this study should erase doubts scientists may have had about the potential effectiveness of post-natal stem cells."
Researchers from Children's and the University of Pittsburgh in Dr. Huard's laboratory were able to expand post-natal stem cells to a population level comparable to that reached by researchers using embryonic stem cells. Previous research has found that embryonic stem cells could undergo more than 200 population doublings before the cells began to die. A population doubling is a method of measuring the age of a population of cells.