Human embryonic stem cells have been coaxed into becoming neural crest stem cells, an important cell type in the developing embryo. These findings, reported online in Nature Biotechnology, will make it possible to produce human neural crest stem cells in large numbers to study the development and diseases of the peripheral nervous system.
During development, embryonic stem cells give rise to all the specialized cell types in the body, but finding methods to mimic this process in a laboratory dish is challenging. The neural crest region of the embryo is of special interest because it gives rise to neurons and glia of the peripheral nervous system and various non-neural cells involved in the formation of cartilage, bone, muscle and other tissues. Studer and colleagues describe the isolation of neural crest stem cells from human embryonic stem cells and their differentiation into peripheral neurons and Schwann cells and into cells that express markers of fat, cartilage, bone and smooth muscle.
In another paper in Nature Biotechnology, Gordon Keller and colleagues have identified a particular site in the human genome (ROSA26) that is similar to one routinely used to introduce genes into the mouse genome. They show that this site is useful for adding genes to a human embryonic stem cell line.
Lorenz Studer (Sloan-Kettering Institute, New York, NY, USA)
Gordon Keller (MaRS Centre, Toronto, Ontario, Canada)
Abstracts available online:
(C) Nature Biotechnology press release.
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