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UCI researchers discover key factor for survival of human embryonic stem cells

ing hES cells for therapy. Rather than treating disease, undifferentiated stem cells that are transplanted into the body often form tumors instead, causing harm to the patient. A significant challenge has been to prevent the formation of tumors by ensuring that all cells are differentiated before they are transplanted. The studies by Donovan and Lock show that this is even more crucial when that transplantation is made into areas of the body rich in neurotrophins.

"Much of the research regarding stem cell therapy today focuses on areas involving the nervous system, such as the spinal cord," Donovan said. "Neurotrophins help the growth of tissues in those areas and are commonly found in the nervous system. Therefore, when we use stem cells for therapy in those areas, we must be especially careful that no undifferentiated cells are transplanted where they could respond to neurotrophins and form tumors." The work by Donovan and Lock provides a potential solution to the problem. By treating stem cells in culture with chemicals that block the action of neurotrophins on hES cells, Donovan said, scientists can kill the undifferentiated stem cells before they are implanted into the body.

According to Donovan, the studies also offer further proof that new stem cell lines need to develop beyond those already in existence. Federally approved hES lines currently used for research were not created in the presence of growth factors such as neurotrophins. The work undertaken by Donovan and Lock indicates that cell lines not created in these optimal conditions may eventually mutate and lose their usefulness for therapeutic purposes.


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Contact: Farnaz Khadem
fkhadem@uci.edu
949-824-5484
University of California - Irvine
16-Feb-2006


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