Queensland scientists have successfully turned synthetic material into an embryonic stem cell, in a research breakthrough that may one day quell the debate over stem cell therapies.
The process, which derives embryonic stem cells from chemically-synthesised proteins, may eventually eliminate the controversial step of destroying human embryos for stem cell therapies, scientists from Queensland University of Technology (QUT) say.
“The achievement overcomes one of the major obstacles to the approved use of stem cell therapies,” QUT Associate Professor David Leavesly said.
“Traditional culture of human embryonic stem cells requires the presence of animal or human serum-derived products in the growth media for the embryonic stem cells to survive and grow.”
Scientists hope embryonic, unspecialised cells will eventually be used to grow new tissue and replacement organs to cure a range of ailments from spinal cord injuries to Alzheimer’s disease.
“Health regulators have always held serious concerns about the possible transmission of infections to humans treated with stem cells grown in the presence of serum-derived (animal-derived) products,” Professor Leavesly said.
“But until now there have been no practical alternatives.”
The new technique involves fusing synthetic proteins through polymer technology, whereby many small molecules, known as monomers, are synthesised into a cellular chain.