The research, published today in the journal Stem Cell Reports, calls into question decades of scientific consensus about the behavior of embryonic stem cells as they transition to endoderm, a class of cell in animal embryos that gives rise to the digestive and respiratory systems.
David M. Gilbert, the J. Herbert Taylor Distinguished Professor of Molecular Biology in FSU's Department of Biological Science, said the study upends well-established notions of when embryonic stem cells chart their unalterable courses toward a fixed endoderm lineage -- in this case, their eventual fate as specific digestive or respiratory cells.
Paper - Assumption - Stem - Cells - Stages
"This paper challenges the longstanding assumption that embryonic stem cells remain quite plastic and malleable during the earliest stages of cell commitment," Gilbert said. "We show that human embryonic stem cells can commit irreversibly to endoderm lineages -- liver and pancreas cells, for example -- very quickly."
The findings represent a new chapter in the study of embryonic stem cell differentiation, a field that could be key to helping scientists and clinicians unlock improved therapies for a range of diseases.
Protocol - San - Medicine - Firm - ViaCyte
Using a sophisticated protocol developed by the San Diego-based regenerative medicine firm ViaCyte, Gilbert and his collaborators exposed a sample of embryonic stem cells to culture conditions engineered to nudge the cells into the definitive endoderm stage, a fast lane to specialized cell development. The team then quickly returned the cells to a bath of treatment factors designed to restore them to an embryonic state.
Based on previous studies, the researchers presumed it would take days in the endoderm culture, or at least a full cell division cycle, for the cells to commit to a developmental track.
Fact - Hours - Cocktail - Fraction - Cell
"In fact, we found that after only a few hours exposure to the endoderm cocktail -- a fraction of a cell division cycle -- the cells could be returned to the stem cell...
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