When it comes to generating neurons, researchers have found that not all embryonic stem (ES) cell lines are equal. In comparing neurons generated from two NIH-approved embryonic stem cell lines, scientists have uncovered significant differences in the mature, functioning neurons generated from each line. The discovery implies that culture conditions during ES cell generation -- which have yet to be identified -- can influence the developmental properties of human ES cells.
The report, which was published August 6, 2007, in the early online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, also describes a new technique for producing functioning neurons from stem cells that will be important for creating models of human neurodegenerative diseases.
The research team was led by UCLA stem cell biologist Yi Sun and Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator Thomas Sdhof at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas.
Embryonic stem cells are developmentally immature cells that are capable of self-renewal and of differentiating into any type of tissue in the body. Researchers believe they hold the potential for generating neural, cardiac and other cells that can be implanted to restored damaged tissue.
To the best of my knowledge, until now there have been few functional studies of the neurons derived from embryonic stem cells, said Sdhof. People in the field have traditionally been interested in whether they can make neurons and what molecular markers characterize those neurons. However, because different embryonic stem cell lines were derived under diverse conditions, the possibility existed that cell lines would produce neurons with distinct properties.
The researchers compared mature neurons grown from two embryonic stem cell lines approved for research by the National Institute of Health. Sun and her colleagues developed procedures to differentiate the two stem cell lines first into neural progenitor cells
Contact: Jim Keeley
Howard Hughes Medical Institute