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Posted 06.07.06

New Hypothesis Suggests Adult Stem Cell Lines May Have Common Origin

MU Scientists Ask Researchers to Collaborate to Advance Stem Cell Therapy

COLUMBIA, Mo. -- Hundreds of scientists are researching the potential of stem cells to provide therapeutic benefits for people with a variety of diseases and disorders. While they mostly work independently, scientists at the University of Missouri-Columbia believe they all have something in common and may not realize it - that the various lines of adult stem cells being researched may be traceable to a common origin.

There likely is a connection among all these cell types, according to Chris Pierret, MU biological sciences graduate student and first-author on the paper that introduces this hypothesis in Stem Cells and Development.

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"If various lines of adult stem cells can be traced back to a common origin and have a common potential, we will know that stem cells in more easily accessible areas may be used in various stem cell therapies," Pierret said. "Certainly people would be more apt to allow their bone marrow to be harvested rather than brain tissue if either could be used for the same therapy."

The hypothesis proposes that the neural crest is the source of adult stem cells. At the point during development just after germ layers form and cells become destined to a particular fate, the neural crest is formed. The same layer that forms the neural crest becomes the neural tube and cells from this region migrate to nearly every tissue in the body. If it can be determined that all adult stem cells are derived from this common origin, according to Pierret, it would be easier to explain concepts like transdifferentiation, which is currently being used to describe events like transplanted bone marrow cells becoming neurons in the brain.

"It would no longer be a mystery how a cell from a completely different tissue could become a brain cell. If the cells come from the same source, they are really just doing what they were originally programmed to do," Pierret said.

Pierret and his co-authors believe that the therapeutic value would be easier to realize if scientists included a search for the origin of the stem cells they use in research. In turn, that could mean harvesting stem cells with therapeutic value would be easier.

"The cell type that is most readily available and least likely to cause a rejection is the type most likely to be used in stem cell therapies," Pierret said. "If scientist working in this field would check for the origin and share data during the process, this field may move forward faster."



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