Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have found a method of multiplying adult stem cells indefinitely, a step towards making them an effective therapy. The main obstacles to their acceptance have been isolating them and multiplying them. Now a team headed by Dr Rudolph Jaenisch has reported in the journal Cell that activating the Oct4 gene causes adult stem cells to replicate without forming mature tissue.
Konrad Hochedlinger, one of Jaenisch’s team, explains that “you could remove a person?s skin tissue, put it in a dish, isolate the skin stem cells, then subject it to an environment that activates Oct4. This would cause the cells to multiply yet remain in their stem cell state. And because this process is reversible, after you have a critical mass of these cells, you can then place them back into the person where they would grow into healthy tissue.”
Other members of Jaenisch’s team are investigating whether this latest development could also be useful in therapeutic cloning.
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