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Researchers at the Scripps Research Institute have released a new test that differentiates embryonic stem cells and others with therapeutic potential from other stem cell types. Jeanne Loring and her collegues provided research that they believe identifies previously unrecognized stem cell subtypes.
Stem cells’ unassuming, bloblike appearance is said to make them hard to identify; however, the new research clears up the confusion. The technique can distinguish embryonic stem cells, which are pluripotent, meaning they can become any kind of cell in the body from “adult” stem cells that reside in human organs and have a much more limited repertoire.
Loring and her colleagues provide fresh evidence that stem cells made by “reprogramming” a person’s skin without ever making or destroying an embryo are truly pluripotent, just like embryonic stem cells.
The findings suggest that these reprogrammed, embryonic-like stem cells could be used for future stem cell therapies in place of embryonic cells, which are more controversial because they are extracted from embryos. Scientists have debated whether reprogrammed cells truly have all the abilities of cells taken from embryos.
To distinguish adult stem cells from pluripotent cells, Loring’s team compared the gene activity of about 150 stem cell samples of various types, including reprogrammed cells, embryonic stem cells and neural stem cells. Out of this comparison popped 299 interacting genes that form what the researchers call a pluripotency network, or PluriNet. Measuring the activity of these genes reportedly could reliably distinguish the different kinds of stem cells. For more information, visit www.scripps.edu.