from the regenerative-medicine dept.
Numerous reports appeared in late-January 2002 in response to a press release (23 January) that reports on a claim by Dr. Catherine M. Verfaillie and colleagues at the University of Minnesota Stem Cell Institute (SCI) that they have isolated a type of stem cell found in adults that can turn into every single tissue in the body. Previously, only stem cells from early embryos were thought to be able to do this. If the finding is confirmed, it will mean cells from your own body could one day be turned into all sorts of perfectly matched replacement tissues and even organs. The finding generated a high level of interest because, if confirmed, there would be no need to resort to therapeutic cloning — cloning human embryos to get matching stem cells from the resulting embryos. Nor would you have to genetically engineer embryonic stem cells (ESCs) to create a "one cell fits all" line that doesn't trigger immune rejection. The discovery of such versatile adult stem cells will also fan the debate about whether embryonic stem cell research is justified.
Additional coverage can be found in articles from the New York Times ("Scientists Herald a Versatile Adult Cell", by N. Wade and S.G. Stolberg, 25 January 2002) and United Press International ("Adult stem cell findings lauded", 24 January 2002).
In related news that demonstrates the importance of this line of research, Dr. Verfaillie announced in another press release (30 January 2002) that her team has demonstrated, for the first time, the ability of adult bone marrow stem cells to expand in vitro as endothelial cells (which line blood- and lymphatic vessels) and then engraft in vivo and contribute to new growth of blood vessels (neoangiogenesis). The report appeared in the 1 February 2002 issue of the Journal of Clinical Investigation. Verfaillie and her colleagues announced late last year that these cells, called multipotent adult progenitor cells (MAPCs), demonstrate the potential to differentiate beyond mesenchymal cells, into cells of the visceral mesodermal origin, such as endothelium, and may be capable of differentiating into nonmesodermal cell types, such as neurons, astrocytes, oligodendrocytes, and liver.