Researchers at the Hadassah University Medical Center have developed a novel strategy to derive and control differentiation of large quantities of human embryonic stem cells (hESCs), which may hold the key to reversing disorders such as Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, and Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD).

The research results, published in the March 28, on-line edition of Nature Biotechnology, demonstrate that human embryonic stem cell lines can be developed and grown while floating within a cultivation medium. This eliminates the need to seed the embryonic stem cells over a substrate–the current labor-intensive methodology–which produces only limited quantities of cells.

While hESCs can mature into any type of cell in the body and hold the potential to correct disorders such as Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, and Age-related Macular Degeneration, a major challenge has been to produce enough cells for effective transplantation.  With the new strategy, researchers derived hESCs and enabled them to multiply in suspension without differentiating into specific types of cells.  The traditional method induces uncontrolled maturation of stem cells into a number of specific cell types.

In addition, the researchers, led by Prof. Benjamin Reubinoff, Director of Hadassah’s Human Embryonic Stem Cell Research Center, demonstrated that by changing the culture conditions further, they could direct the stem cells in the suspension to mature into cells of the nervous system.  With this breakthrough, researchers may be able to place bulk quantities of cells floating in fluid substrate into large containers and then accurately control their growth within a computerized automated system.  They would then be able to direct them to mature into large quantities of specific types of cells for implantation into patients or further research.

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