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New Way to Make Blood Vessel Cells from Stem Cells

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Active ImageAn Iranian scientist, Shahin Rafii, has developed a new technique to generate functional endothelial blood vessel cells from human embryonic and pluripotent stem cells.

In a significant step toward restoring healthy blood circulation to treat a variety of diseases, a team of scientists at Weill Cornell Medical College has developed a new technique and described a novel mechanism for turning human embryonic and pluripotent stem cells into plentiful, functional endothelial cells, which are critical to the formation of blood vessels. Endothelial cells form the interior "lining" of all blood vessels and are the main component of capillaries, the smallest and most abundant vessels. In the near future, the researchers believe, it will be possible to inject these cells into humans to heal damaged organs and tissues.

The new approach allows scientists to generate virtually unlimited quantities of durable endothelial cells -- more than 40-fold the quantity possible with previous approaches. Based on insights into the genetic mechanisms that regulate how embryonic stem cells form vascular endothelial cells, the approach may also yield new ways to study genetically inherited vascular diseases.

"This technique is the first of its kind with serious potential as a treatment for a diverse array of diseases, especially cardiovascular disease, stroke and vascular complications of diabetes," says Dr. Shahin Rafii, the study's senior author. Dr. Rafii is the Arthur B. Belfer Professor in Genetic Medicine and co-director of the Ansary Stem Cell Institute at Weill Cornell Medical College, and an investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

Active ImageIn recent years, enormous hopes have been pinned on stem cells as the source of future cures and treatments. Indeed, human embryonic stem cells have the potential to become any one of the more than 200 types of adult cells. However, the factors and pathways that govern their differentiation to abundant derivatives that could be used to repair organs have remained poorly understood.

The study appears in the advance online issue of Nature Biotechnology.

Dr. Shahin Rafii is a professor at Arthur and Rochelle Belfer Center for Cancer Genomics, Director of the Ansary Stem Cell Institute at Weill Cornell Medical College, and an investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

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