Comprehensive

Protein protects brain from damage, may prevent neurodegenerative diseases

Researchers at the University of California, San Diego and the Salk Institute for Biological Studies have found a protein that protects the brain from the kind of damage that can lead to Parkinson's disease. This protein, called Nurr1, has a long history in Parkinson's disease research. People who carry a mutation in the gene are prone to developing the disease. The new work explains how the protein prevents Parkinson's disease and could also help researchers find ways of treating of preventing the disease.

Support Cells Prevent Mature Heart from Repairing Damage

Researchers at the Gladstone Institute of Cardiovascular Disease may have discovered why developing heart muscles cells multiply in numbers while the adult counterparts do not. This finding could lead to therapies that roll back the clocks on heart muscle cells after injury such as a heart attack, allowing those cells to multiply and repair the damage. The researchers specifically looked at the role of cells called fibroblasts, which are packed in the heart amidst the muscle cells.

Embryonic Stem Cells Generate Model for ALS

Researchers at the Salk Institute for Biological Sciences have grown embryonic stem cells into the motor neurons and support cells that underlie amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Also known as Lou Gherig's Disease, ALS has no cure and no effective treatment. In this disease, the motor neurons slowly degenerate leaving a person paralyzed. Why the neurons die is not known, however the support cells called astrocytes have long appeared to play a role.

Genetic Factor Enables Immature Cells to Form Normal Heart Tissue

Researchers at the Gladstone Institute for Cardiovascular Disease found a genetic factor that helps in the earliest stages of heart development as the primitive tube loops around on itself and forms the separate chambers. This factor -- a short relative of DNA called microRNA -- has an identical counterpart in humans, leading the researchers to believe that their work in fish is likely to relate directly to human heart development.

Protein found to direct embryonic stem cells as they mature

Researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine have found that clusters of embryonic stem cells in a lab dish share some unexpected similarities with actual embryos. These clumps, called embryoid bodies, consist of hundreds of cells, many of which begin to form more mature cell types. For example, they often contain groups of primitive heart muscle cells that beat visibly. In this work the researchers found that the embryoid bodies also contain a line of cells that resemble an embryonic structure called the primitive streak.

Early immune cells created from embryonic stem cells

Researchers at UC, Los Angeles have created cells that go on to form normal T cells out of human embryonic stem cells. What's more, these cells were grown in the absence of animal feeder cells, which are usually needed to sustain embryonic stem cells. Avoiding potential contamination by such feeder cells is an important step in generating cells that can be transplanted into people. The researchers describe a series of steps that drive human embryonic stem cells to begin developing as T cells.

New Stem Cell Lines Created from Testes Biopsy

Researchers at Stanford University School of Medicine have created new stem cell lines from cells found in the human testes. Like embryonic stem cells, these cell lines are pluripotent, which means that they can form all cell types in the adult body. The work follows similar research finding that adult stem cells in mouse testes can be reprogrammed into pluripotent cells. However, the researchers found that the cells differed from embryonic stem cells in several important ways.

New Embryonic Stem Cell Lines Avoid Animal Products

Researchers at Stanford University School of Medicine derived new human embryonic stem cell lines using minimal animal products. Although numerous groups have derived stem cell lines, most were generated in the presence of animal serum and animal-derived feeder cells. These animal products are a concern because they may cause the stem cells to produce an immune response when transplanted into humans and may induce biological changes especially to the genome.

Method Produces Nerve Cells More Quickly

Researchers at the Burnham Institute for Medical Research have developed a new way of quickly maturing embryonic stem cells into neural cells. Other research groups have worked out lab conditions that encourage embryonic stem cells to mature into various types of nerve cells, but those methods were slow and resulted in early stage nerve cells that were more likely to cause tumors when transplanted into mice. This new method could speed work by researchers who are trying to develop therapies for diseases of the nervous system.

Genetic Factor Influences Heart Muscle Formation from Embryonic Stem Cells

Researchers at the Gladstone Institute for Cardiovascular Disease discovered how two specific tiny genetic factors called microRNAs influence the differentiation of embryonic stem cells into heart muscle. They found that the factors not only drive the versatile cells to become heart, but also actively prevent them from becoming other tissue such as bone adding to their potential to make therapy more specific and targeted for patients.

Cell Stem Cell: March 6, 2008

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