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Stem Cell Research

Gene Activation Makes Adult Stem Cells Divide Rapidly

14 years ago

1606  0
Posted on Jun 13, 2005, 6 a.m. By Bill Freeman

Adult stem cells are hard to grow. But MIT Whitehead Institute researchers have discovered that turning on a gene that is active in the early embryo causes adult stem cells to grow rapidly. While research on human embryonic stem cells gets most of the press, scientists are also investigating the potential therapeutic uses of adult stem cells. Although less controversial, this research faces other difficulties. Adult stem cells are extremely difficult to isolate and multiply in the lab.

Adult stem cells are hard to grow. But MIT Whitehead Institute researchers have discovered that turning on a gene that is active in the early embryo causes adult stem cells to grow rapidly.

While research on human embryonic stem cells gets most of the press, scientists are also investigating the potential therapeutic uses of adult stem cells. Although less controversial, this research faces other difficulties. Adult stem cells are extremely difficult to isolate and multiply in the lab.

Now, as reported in the May 6 issue of Cell, researchers led by Rudolf Jaenisch of the Whitehead Institute have discovered a mechanism that might enable scientists to multiply adult stem cells quickly and efficiently.

"These findings provide us with a new way of looking at adult stem cells and for possibly exploiting their therapeutic potential," says Jaenisch, who also is a professor of biology at MIT.

I have repeatedly argued that it is just a matter of time before scientists find ways to turn adult stem cells into cells that can become any other cell type. This latest research from MIT is certainly a step in that direction. Note that these scientists used existing knowledge that the gene Oct4 is known to be active in embryonic stem cells. They turned that same gene on in adult stem cells. So this research is a clear step in the direction of making adult stem cells more like embryonic stem cells.

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