Pluripotent stem cells, capable of developing into any type of tissue, have historically been difficult to control and produce in large quantities in the lab. Now this problem might be a thing of the past, as researchers at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, California, have discovered a new type of pluripotent stem cells that are easy to grow in a lab and capable of being directed to grow into several different types of cells.
The new type of stem cells, called "region-selective pluripotent stem cells" or rsPSCs, were discovered by Professor Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte and his team. They used chemicals to stimulate the growth of these cells in the lab, then injected them into different regions of a mouse embryo.
They found that the cells grew only on the tail, earning them the "region-specific" part of their name, and that they simultaneously matured into all three types of cells that are seen in the development of human embryos. The researchers also found that it was easy to edit the genomes of the rsPSCs, which has not so far been the case with other forms of pluripotent stem cells.
These results would seem to suggest that it might someday be possible to grow human organs for harvest inside animals. According to BioNews.org, Professor Belmonte is aware "that the challenges facing any future therapy using rsPSCs go beyond the purely scientific."
"Of course, the ethical implications behind creating a human-animal chimera for the purpose of obtaining human tissues and organs to save lives of millions needs to be carefully evaluated," he said.
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