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Stem Cell Research

Cutting electricity could make embryo stem cells safer

12 years, 11 months ago

727  0
Posted on Nov 10, 2005, 5 a.m. By Bill Freeman

A finding about the ability of embryonic stem cells to conduct electricity could lead to them being used more safely in clinics. Reporting in the journal Stem Cells , researchers from Johns Hopkins say they have found functional ion channels in human embryonic stem cells that act like electrical wires.

A finding about the ability of embryonic stem cells to conduct electricity could lead to them being used more safely in clinics.

Reporting in the journal Stem Cells , researchers from Johns Hopkins say they have found functional ion channels in human embryonic stem cells that act like electrical wires.

If some of the channels could be selectively blocked, the researchers say, it could help prevent potential tumor development.

"A major concern for human ESC-based therapies is the potential for engineered grafts to go haywire after transplantation and form tumors, for instance, due to contamination by only a few undifferentiated human ESCs," says study senior author Ronald A. Li. "Our discovery of functional ion channels, which are valves in a cell's outer membrane allowing the passage of charged atoms, the basis of electricity, provides an important link to the differentiation, or maturation, and cell proliferation, or growth of human ESCs."

A news release reports:

In an earlier study, Li's lab genetically engineered heart cells derived from human ESCs, suggesting the possibility of transplanting unlimited supplies of healthy, specialized cells into damaged organs...

In the current study, the researchers measured the electric currents of single human ESCs, discovered several channels that allow and control passage of potassium, and observed the electric current's effect on cell differentiation and proliferation...

Li hopes the targeting of specific potassium channels will give scientists more understanding and control in engineering healthy cells for transplantation.


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