Path to Growing Organs from Stem Cells by Proving Control of Embryonic Development in Fish
Scientists at the University of Virginia School of Medicine have overcome one of the greatest challenges in biology and taken a major step toward being able to grow whole organs and tissues from stem cells.
By manipulating the appropriate signaling, the U.Va. researchers have turned embryonic stem cells into a fish embryo, essentially controlling embryonic development.
The research will have dramatic impact on the future use of stem cells to better the human condition, providing a framework for future studies in the field of regenerative medicine aimed at constructing tissues and organs from populations of cultured pluripotent cells.
The researchers were able to identify the signals sufficient for starting the cascade of molecular and cellular processes that lead to a fully developed fish embryo. With this study came an answer to the longstanding question of how few signals can initiate the processes of development: amazingly, only two.
The study has shed light on the important roles these two signals play for the formation of organs and full development of a zebrafish embryo. Moreover, the Thisses are now able to direct embryonic development and formation of tissues and organs by controlling signal locations and concentrations.
Their next steps will be to attempt to reproduce their findings using mice. They expect molecular and cellular mechanisms will be extremely similar in mice and other mammals, including humans.