University of Toronto researchers have developed a method that can rapidly screen human stem cells and better control what they will turn into. The technology could have potential use in regenerative medicine and drug development. Findings are published in this week's issue of the journal Nature Methods.
"The work allows for a better understanding of how to turn stem cells into clinically useful cell types more efficiently," according to Emanuel Nazareth, a PhD student at the Institute of Biomaterials & Biomedical Engineering (IBBME) at the University of Toronto. The research comes out of the lab of Professor Peter Zandstra, Canada Research Chair in Bioengineering at U of T.
The researchers used human pluripotent stem cells (hPSC), cells which have the potential to differentiate and eventually become any type of cell in the body. But the key to getting stem cells to grow into specific types of cells, such as skin cells or heart tissue, is to grow them in the right environment in culture, and there have been challenges in getting those environments (which vary for different types of stem cells) just right, Nazareth said.
The researchers developed a high-throughput platform, which uses robotics and automation to test many compounds or drugs at once, with controllable environments to screen hPSCs in. With it, they can control the size of the stem cell colony, the density of cells, and other parameters in order to better study characteristics of the cells as they differentiate or turn into other cell types. Studies were done using stem cells in micro-environments optimized for screening and observing how they behaved when chemical changes were introduced.
It was found that two specific proteins within stem cells, Oct4 and Sox2, can be used to track the four major early cell fate types that stem cells can turn into, allowing four screens to be performed at once.
"One of the most frustrating challenges is that we have different research protocols for different cell types. But as it turns out, very often those protocols don't work across many different cell lines," Nazareth said.
The work also provides a way to study differences across cell lines that can be used to predict certain genetic information, such as abnormal chromosomes. What's more, these predictions can be done in a fraction of the time compared to other existing techniques, and for a substantially lower cost compared to other testing and screening methods.
"We anticipate this technology will underpin new strategies to identify cell fate control molecules, or even drugs, for a number of different stem cell types," Zandstra said.
As a drug screening technology "it's a dramatic improvement over its predecessors," said Nazareth. He notes that in some cases, the new technology can drop testing time from up to a month to a mere two days.
Professor Peter Zandstra was awarded the 2013 Till & McCulloch Award in recognition of this contribution to global stem cell research.
The Institute of Biomaterials & Biomedical Engineering (IBBME) is an interdisciplinary unit allowing a remarkable degree of integration and collaboration across three Faculties at the University of Toronto: Applied Science & Engineering, Dentistry and Medicine. The Institute pursues research in four areas: neural, sensory systems and rehabilitation engineering; biomaterials, tissue engineering and regenerative medicine; molecular imaging and biomedical nanotechnology; and, medical devices and clinical technologies.
Erin Vollick | Source: EurekAlert!
Further information: www.utoronto.ca
More articles from Life Sciences:
New genetic research finds shark, human proteins stunningly similar
06.12.2013 | Cornell University
Prostate cancer biomarker may predict patient outcomes
06.12.2013 | Vanderbilt University Medical Center
International team of scientists develops new feedback method for optimizing the laser pulse shapes used in the control of chemical reactions
In many ways, traditional chemical synthesis is similar to cooking. To alter the final product, you can change the ingredients or their ratio, change the method of mixing ingredients, or change the temperature or pressure of the environment of the ingredients.
Like an accomplished chef, chemists have become very skilled ...
A genetic defect protects mice from infection with influenza viruses
A new study published in the scientific journal PLOS Pathogens points out that mice lacking a protein called Tmprss2 are no longer affected by certain flu viruses.
The discovery was made by researchers from the Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research (HZI) in Braunschweig in collaboration with colleagues from Göttingen and ...
The Light: Global study gets underway with online user survey
Light has a fundamental impact on our sense of well-being and performance. In cooperation with Zumtobel, a supplier of lighting solutions, Fraunhofer IAO has launched a global user survey of lighting quality in offices. The objective is to identify the best lighting conditions for a variety of spaces and lighting ...
Quantum entanglement, a perplexing phenomenon of quantum mechanics that Albert Einstein once referred to as “spooky action at a distance,” could be even spookier than Einstein perceived.
Physicists at the University of Washington and Stony Brook University in New York believe the phenomenon might be intrinsically linked with wormholes, hypothetical features of space-time that in popular science fiction can provide a much-faster-than-light shortcut from one part of the universe to another.
But here’s the catch: One couldn’t actually ...
A star is formed when a large cloud of gas and dust condenses and eventually becomes so dense that it collapses into a ball of gas, where the pressure heats the matter, creating a glowing gas ball – a star is born.
New research from the Niels Bohr Institute, among others, shows that a young, newly formed star in the Milky Way had such an explosive growth, that it was initially about 100 times brighter than it is now. The results are published in the scientific journal, Astrophysical Journal Letters.
The young ...
06.12.2013 | Materials Sciences
06.12.2013 | Life Sciences
06.12.2013 | Life Sciences
05.12.2013 | Event News
04.12.2013 | Event News
12.11.2013 | Event News