Mouse Adult Stem Cells Developed Into Heart, Blood Cells

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Researchers have succeeded in inducing stem cells grown from mouse skin cells to differentiate into functioning cardiovascular and blood cells, according to a study publishing online tomorrow in the journal "Stem Cells."

"Induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells are reprogrammed cells obtained by genetic manipulation of normal adult cells that then express capabilities similar to embryonic stem cells," explains Dr. Miodrag Stojkovic, Co-Editor of "Stem Cells." "That is, iPS cells are theoretically able to differentiate into 220 different cell types. For the first time, scientists from UCLA were able to induce the differentiation of mouse iPS cells into functional heart cells, smooth muscle cells, and blood cells."

Katja Schenke-Layland and colleagues at UCLA performed a series of experiments using mouse iPS cells, using reprogrammed cells obtained from skin biopsies in adult mice. Although iPS cells are believed to be equivalent to embryonic stem cells, rigorous scientific studies are needed to confirm their potential to differentiate into specific types of cells.

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Experiments in mice using iPS cells confirmed that the stem cells had differentiated into mature heart muscle cells (cardiomyocytes) and vascular smooth muscle cells (the specialized muscle cells lining the blood vessel walls). In addition, studies of cultured iPS cells showed markers characteristic of early cardiovascular and hematopoietic (blood-forming) cells. The iPS cells were essentially the same as mouse embryonic stem cells at the same stage of differentiation.

Using relatively simple laboratory techniques, the researchers were then able to induce iPS cells to develop into functional cardiomyocytes, smooth muscle cells, and hematopoietic cells. The functional cells showed only minor differences from cells developed from embryonic stem cells.

The ability to generate stem cells using the patient's own cells holds great promise for the treatment of currently incurable degenerative diseases, as well as for cell-based drug discovery. In recent months, reports from UCLA and other research groups have shown that human skin cells can be reprogrammed into cells that are nearly identical to human embryonic stem cells, without the need to use human embryos or eggs.

The new results are an important milestone, extensively documenting the capability of inducing mouse iPS cells to develop into different types of functional cells. The next step will be to develop efficient, reliable, and safe techniques of generating human cardiovascular and hematopoietic cells for use in testing new "patient-tailored regenerative therapies," the researchers write.

Dr. Stojkovic adds, "The development of functional cells from iPS is a key step forward in the development of patient-specific embryonic stem cells for use in developing new treatments for conditions such as Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, and spinal cord injury, among others."

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