April 24, 2024

Ethical” embryonic stem cells discovered

Umbilical cord blood could be a source of cells with all the potential of stem cells derived from embryos but without their ethical baggage, say researchers from Kingston University in the UK. They have been working with colleagues at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston. “We have found a unique group of cells that bring together the essential qualities of both types of stem cells [adult and embryonic] for the first time,” says British scientist Colin McGuckin.

The researchers were able to make these cells proliferate by using microgravity”, a technique developed by NASA for the International Space Station. This allows them to grow rapidly and in three dimensions. Despite some scepticism by other stem cell scientists, McGuckin says that these “cord-blood-derived embryonic-like stem cells”, or CBEs, can differentiate into all three basic types of tissue.

But the factor which makes this development most exciting is that the stem cells are derived from umbilical cord blood. “Cord blood is great because it is normally disposed of. It’s ethically very acceptable to most of the world,” says Dr McGuckin. With 100 million babies born every year, “you have 100 million times a chance to find cells that have the same immunology as you and won’t be rejected when they are transplanted into you.” The results of the research have been published in the journal Cell Proliferation.