Efficient Stem Cells Can Grow in Animals

Altering the growth medium boosts survival rate from 1 percent to as much as 40 percent.

By Karen WeintraubNov 30, 2015 6:00 AM
The top and bottom photos show the difference in stem cell survival, merely by altering the medium used for growth. | Courtesy Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte/Salk Institute of Biological Studies (2)


Sign up for our email newsletter for the latest science news

Working with stem cells comes at a price. When isolated, 99 percent of stem cells die, making it prohibitively difficult to manipulate their genes or expand their numbers for clinical use.

By tinkering with the medium in which cells are grown, researchers at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies created a type of stem cell with a survival rate of 30 to 40 percent, vs. 1 percent. The cells are far easier to culture, and their genetic defects are more readily repaired.

The human version of the cells, called region-selective pluripotent stem cells, or rsPSCs, can also grow inside a mouse, something other human stem cells can’t do, says Jun Wu, a research associate involved in the work, published in May in Nature.

“It offers the first proof of concept that it’s possible to incorporate human cells efficiently into another species,” Wu says. This suggests someday it may be possible to grow a human organ, such as a pancreas, inside a pig and then transplant it into a diabetic patient.

1 free article left
Want More? Get unlimited access for as low as $1.99/month

Already a subscriber?

Register or Log In

1 free articleSubscribe
Discover Magazine Logo
Want more?

Keep reading for as low as $1.99!


Already a subscriber?

Register or Log In

More From Discover
Recommendations From Our Store
Shop Now
Stay Curious
Our List

Sign up for our weekly science updates.

To The Magazine

Save up to 40% off the cover price when you subscribe to Discover magazine.

Copyright © 2023 Kalmbach Media Co.