Molecular biologists reported Wednesday that they had grown prostates in mice from single cells, marking an important step forward in the quest to grow transplant tissue in the lab.
The four-person team at the Californian biotechnology firm Genentech said they achieved the feat after identifying a primitive, powerful cell called a stem cell in mouse prostates.
The cell, known by its marker CD117, was transplanted below the kidney in lab mice, according to their study, published online by the British-based science journal Nature.
Of 97 of these single-cell transplants, 14 functioning prostates developed.
Stem cells have unleashed enormous interest in recent years because of their theoretical potential to grow specific cells that can be used to replace tissue damaged by disease or accident.
The biggest focus has been on stem cells at the embryonic stage as these are “pluripotent”, meaning that they can become any tissue in the body.
There are also “unipotent” adult stem cells, which are already programmed to divide into specific cells, which is the case in this research.