Stanford researchers grow bone, heart muscle from embryonic stem cells

Researchers at Stanford's School of Medicine have for the first time, quickly and efficiently generated pure populations of 12 different specialised cell types from embryonic stem cells that could be used to repair the human body.

Though the various cells had been grown earlier, the process had been extremely to control.

Experiments often led to impure mixtures of multiple cell types, with limited practical use, and it also took a long time - weeks or months - to grow them.

The Stanford team, in collaboration with the Genome Institute of Singapore, grew these pure colonies in a matter of days, which was  made possible by the team's improved understanding of the complex patterns of chemical signals needed to guide cellular development.

''It is fantastic - a gateway to a lot of applications in regenerative medicine,'' a field which uses cells to build healthy replacement tissue, said Kyle Loh of Stanford's Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine, a co-author of the study published in Thursday's issue of the journal Cell, reported.

Meanwhile, ''the ability to make pure populations of these cells within days rather than the weeks or months previously required is a key step toward clinically useful regenerative medicine - potentially allowing researchers to generate new beating heart cells to repair damage after a heart attack or to create cartilage or bone to reinvigorate creaky joints or heal from trauma'' reported.

 ''Regenerative medicine relies on the ability to turn pluripotent human stem cells into specialized tissue stem cells that can engraft and function in patients,'' said Irving Weissman, MD, the director of Stanford's Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine, and also of its Ludwig Cancer Center.

''It took us years to be able to isolate blood-forming and brain-forming stem cells. Here we used our knowledge of the developmental biology of many other animal models to provide the positive and negative signaling factors to guide the developmental choices of these tissue and organ stem cells. Within five to nine days we can generate virtually all the pure cell populations that we need.''