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Better Understanding Pluripotent Stem Cells

Scientists are making steady progress in developing the foundational knowledge that will support the next generation of stem cell therapies: "researchers discovered the fate - or destination - of human pluripotent stem cells is encoded by how their DNA is arranged, and this can be detected by specific proteins on the surface of the stem cells. ... It's like going on secret trip. When you decide to go to Jamaica, you pack your toothbrush, underwear, and of course shorts, t-shirts and swimsuits. But if, at the last minute, you get rerouted to Alaska, you unpack a few things but the basic elements, like your toothbrush, are going to be the same. You may just trade the shorts and swimsuits for long pants and a sweater. ... Until now, common scientific belief has been that all pluripotent stem cells are equivalent and keep all options open at the same time. But that's really not the case. ... This study showed that pluripotent cells are not all equal. They are all pluripotent. You can force a cell that normally would love to become a neural cell to turn into blood, just like you can force the vacationer to go Alaska instead of Jamaica. They'll do it, but not very well and not happily. ... For the study, [the] research team found stem cells with roadmaps and specifically packed suitcases for the blood and neural destinations. The researchers discovered when they isolated these stem cells by new protein markers on the surface of cells, they were able produce a greater number of specialized cells - nearly five times as many blood cells and twelve times as many neural cells compared to when the stem cells had to be forced into those cell types."

Link: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/07/110707121924.htm

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