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A good 'coach' and the right environment keeps stem cells in check, say Stanford researchers

In the video above, Michael Longaker, MD, a Stanford stem cell scientist and pediatric plastic and reconstructive surgeon, discusses fascinating new research appearing today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science. In the study he and his colleagues showed that stem cells can be directed by the body to form bone in laboratory mice, and, under the appropriate guidance, are much less likely to become dangerous tumors called teratomas. From our release:

“Once we identify the key proteins and signals coaching the tissue within the body, we can try to mimic them when we use the stem cells,” said Longaker. “Just as the shape of water is determined by its container, cells respond to external cues. For example, in the future, if you want to replace a failing liver, you could put the cells in a scaffold or microenvironment that strongly promotes liver cell differentiation and place the cell-seeded scaffold into the liver to let them differentiate in the optimal macroenvironment.”

Longaker and his collaborators hope that, rather than directing the cells to assume a certain developmental fate in the laboratory, researchers could perhaps use them in their undifferentiated state. This approach would limit the time that stem cells need to be cultured outside the body, and may increase the likelihood of approval by the Food and Drug Administration.

Previously U.S. District Court rules that stem cells are drugs and iPS cells match embryonic stem cells in disease-modeling smackdown

Video courtesy of the Stanford Institute for Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine

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