Hamilton, ON. (July 11, 2007) A startling discovery on the development of human embryonic stem cells by scientists at McMaster University will change how future research in the area is done.
An article published in the prestigious scientific journal Nature this week reports on a new understanding of the growth of human stem cells. It had been thought previously that stem cells are directly influenced by cells in the local environment or niche, but the situation may be more complex. Human embryonic stem cells are perpetual machines that generate fuel for life.
In this weeks Nature, researchers of the McMaster Cancer and Stem Cell Research Institute show that human embryonic stem (ES) cells can actually produce distinctive niche cells, which then release stem-cell nourishing proteins to help keep their parents ticking over.
Scientific Director Mick Bhatia and colleagues provide the first evidence that human ES cells have the unique ability to generate human-ES-cell-derived fibroblast-like niche cells (hdFs) in vitro despite removal from their in vivo microenvironment. These hdFs then provide a continuous source of supportive proteins, including insulin-like growth factor 2 (IGF-II), which they now show could be the protein to sustain hESCs..
Researchers are interested in the relationship between stem cells and their niche, because the niche represents a route for modifying stem cell behaviour if human ES cells can be reliably guided down a particular pathway, then they can be more readily used for future clinical therapy to regenerate damaged tissue such as neurons for Parkinsons disease, or insulin producing cells for diabetes .
The research has been funded by the Canadian Institutes for Health Research and the National Cancer Institute of Canada.
The Nature article is the latest in a series of important papers published by scientists at the 18-month-old institute, which was established with funding
Contact: Veronica McGuire