New Chemical for Regenerative Medicine
A new chemical has been discovered which can be added to lab-grown embryonic stem cells enabling them to multiply without changing type.
Stem cells are able to develop into many other types in the body. They have huge potential to treat diseases or injuries that currently have no cure. Professor Melanie Welham’s team in the Department of Pharmacy & Pharmacology, collaborating with Professor Adam Nelson at the University of Leeds, discovered a chemical that can be added to lab-grown embryonic stem cells. This allows them to multiply without changing into other cell types. “Stem cells have great potential for treating spinal injuries and diseases like type 1 diabetes," explains Professor Welham. "They can change into a range of specialised cell types including nerve or pancreatic cells, which could be used to repair damaged tissues."
Professor Welham, who is co-director of the Centre for Regenerative Medicine, says: "When you grow stem cells in the lab, they can spontaneously develop into specialised cells. This make it difficult to grow large enough stocks for medical research. We’ve identified a chemical that will put this process on hold for several weeks. It is reversible. When you take it away, they are still able to change into specialised cells.”
The Astbury Centre for Structural Molecular Biology's team, led by Professor Adam Nelson, made more than 50 chemical compounds that were tested for activity in stem cells. Researchers found that the chemicals worked by blocking GSK3, an enzyme that can control when the stem cell switches to a more specialised cell type.
Supported by funding from the Biotechnology & Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), the findings were published in the prestigious peer-reviewed Cell Press journal, Chemistry & Biology.
To develop stem cells that do not change their types when produced in bulk.
News and related information
- Don’t go changing: New chemical keeps stem cells young
- Understanding stem cells -Podcast
- Contact Professor Adam Nelson
- The FunGenES database: a genomics resource for mouse Embryonic Stem cell differentiation PLoS One 4(9): e6804.
- The Astbury Centre for Structural Molecular Biology
- Biotechnology & Biological Sciences Research Council - BBSRC
- Chemistry & Biology journal