Stem cells show their muscle
The political debate about stem cell research has heated up in the last few weeks, as both the UK and the US have released guidelines that would permit research on human embryonic stem cells. One major point of controversy has been whether such research is necessary in light of recent findings that adult stem cells are more flexible than previously believed. In this issue [Nature Neuroscience, Vol. 3, No. 10, October 2000], an Italian group led by Angelo Vescovi and Giulio Cossu adds to this evidence by reporting that neural stem cells can give rise to skeletal muscle, both in culture and in animals. These cells appeared to decide what to become via signals obtained by contact with other cells; neural stem cells in contact with other neural stem cells gave rise to neurons and glia, while neural stem cells in contact with muscle tissue gave rise to muscle. Importantly, these differentiation signals were present in adult muscles, suggesting that adult tissues may contain the necessary information to instruct transplanted cells to adopt the fates appropriate to their new location.
In an accompanying editorial, Charles Jennings argues that we do not yet have enough information to determine whether embryonic or adult stem cells are most promising for transplantation therapy, and that both avenues should be explored further.
Dr. Angelo L. Vescovi
Institute for Stem Cell Research
DIBIT, Hospital San Raffaele
Via Olgettina 58
tel: +39 02 2643 2387
fax: +39 02 7004 31033
Dr. Charles Jennings, Editor
345 Park Ave. South
New York, New York 10010-1707
(C) Nature Neuroscience press release.
Message posted by: Trevor M. D'Souza