Saturday, December 30, 2006

Stem Cells From the Umbilical Cord--More Than You Could Imagine!

I have cut dozens of umbilical cords, and drawn blood samples from many more. I never dreamed cord blood would eventually be recognized as a major new source for multipotent stem cells! Cord blood stem cells can be differentiated into all three germ layers now--ectoderm, endoderm, and mesoderm. It was recently reported that scientists at the University of Minnesota differentiated respiratory epithelial cells from umbilical cord blood [UCB].

To obtain the MLPC [multi-lineage progenitor cell] from cord blood, we used a stem cell isolation technology — PrepaCyte-MLPC — from BioE. We successfully isolated the rare MLPC from four UCB units obtained from the American Red Cross.

...We then put the UCB stem cells into culture and allowed them to expand using mesenchymal stromal cell growth medium (MSCGM) prior to adding small airway growth medium (SAGM), both mediums from Cambrex BioScience (East Rutherford, N.J., USA). Following several days in culture, we demonstrated differentiation of MLPCs into type II alveolar cells, which was confirmed by the presence of a definitive type II alveolar cell marker — surfactant protein C (SPC).

The process of sequentially using growth factors and media to differentiate stem cells into mature cell types continues to fascinate me. No one truly understands the potential of stem cells from cord blood, menstrual blood, the testicle, the breast, the brain--or any of the growing number of stem cell sources. Although Australia has legalized the production of human embryos specifically for the purpose of producing stem cells, few other countries have followed the Aussie's lead. That means that other countries will either learn to work with what is legally available, or will fall badly behind the researchers in Oz.

There is growing expertise in producing increasing varieties of cell types from readily available sources of stem cells. Resourceful scientists with ingenuity can do amazing things with the materials on hand.

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