Currently available lines of human embryonic stem cells have been contaminated with a non-human molecule that compromises their potential therapeutic use in human subjects, according to research by investigators at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) School of Medicine and the Salk Institute in La Jolla, California.
In a study published online January 23, 2005 in the journal Nature Medicine, the researchers found that human embryonic stem cells, including those currently approved for study under federal funding in the U.S., contain a non-human, cell-surface sialic acid called N-glycolylneuraminic acid (Neu5Gc), even though human cells are genetically unable to make it. In a related paper published November 29, 2004 by the Journal of Biological Chemistry (JBC), the Varki group has also discovered the exact cellular mechanism by which this occurs.
In studies with one of the federally approved human embryonic stem cell lines, the investigators determined that the Neu5Gc is incorporated by the stem cells when they are grown or derived from laboratory cultures that contain animal sources of the non-human Neu5Gc molecule. All traditional culture-dish methods used to grow all human embryonic stem cells include animal-derived materials, including connective tissue cells (so-called "feeder layers") from mice and fetal calf serum.
Sue Pondrom | EurekAlert!
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