Researcher’s at Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research in Cambridge have discovered a cocktail of growth factors that expands the number of stem cells they can grow in the laboratory at least 10 times beyond what anyone has been able to do before. Their findings have been reported in Jan. 22 online issue of Nature Medicine.

Chengcheng Zhang, lead author of the paper and a postdoctoral researcher in Lodish’s lab, was able to show that these cells had specific genes that were activated and encoded for growth factor proteins. One such growth factor, IGF-2, had already been discovered. IGF-2 contributed to an eight-fold growth in stem cells.

They added two more growth factors - Angiopoietin-like 2 and -3. When these were combined with IGF-2 and added to hematopoietic stem cells, the growth was 30-fold.

This research solves the crucial challenge with hematopoietic (stem cells which forms blood cells) and bone marrow transplants where you need much more stem cells than you can get.

The laboratory is conducting further experiments to see if they can similarly multiply cord blood cells or human stem cells.

Interestingly senior study author Harvey Lodish and Chengcheng Zhang were assisted in their experiments by Kathleen Xie, then a 16-year-old high-school student. Xie. Now 17, she is attending MIT as a freshman. I wish her best of luck in her endeavor.

Source: Health Day [www.healthday.com]