Researchers are developing human stem cells at an early stage for the first time

Researchers are developing human stem cells at an early stage for the first time

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Better understanding of genetic diseases possible?
Researchers from the University of Cambridge have for the first time managed to derive stem cells from human embryos at a very early stage. The new research could help to better understand some genetic diseases, such as Down syndrome, in the future.

The scientists derived stem cells that were at a very early stage from a human embryo. Based on the test results, the doctors hope to be able to develop new treatments that promote our healthy cell lines. In addition, the current findings make it possible to better understand genetic diseases. The experts from the University of Cambridge published their study in the journal "Stem Cell Reports".

Researchers have been trying to isolate naive stem cells for years
Researchers in the UK have derived so-called naive pluripotent stem cells from human embryos. Scientists had been working on this achievement for decades. The newly gained knowledge may soon make it possible to better understand genetic diseases and to develop new treatment methods, say the doctors. So far, we have not been able to isolate these naive stem cells, even though the technology was there and we have been able to isolate them in mice for 30 years, explained Ge Guo of the University of Cambridge.

Naive pluripotent stem cells offer many possibilities for medical purposes
The advantage of naive pluripotent stem cells is that they are very flexible compared to other types of stem cells. In theory, they can develop into any tissue without restrictions. Unchanged embryonic stem cells (from fertilized egg cells) and induced pluripotent stem cells (reprogrammed skin cells) already contain instructions to develop into certain cell types, the experts say. Naive pluripotent stem cells do not contain such instructions, so they offer many potential opportunities for biomedical therapeutic purposes.

Naive stem cells enable the modeling of human diseases
Naive stem cells have many uses, for example in regenerative medicine or for modeling human diseases, says Guo. For regenerative medicine, this could mean that effective "healthy" cell treatments for organs and tissues could be developed. Typically, an egg that was previously fertilized by a sperm begins to divide and replicate before the embryo begins to take shape, the researchers say. As part of this process, the embryonic cells together form a structure called the blastocyst. This includes a number of different cell types that are of crucial importance for the further development of the embryo, explain the doctors. These include naive cells, from which the body of the embryo later forms. Scientists have now successfully removed these blastocyst cells from the process. The cells were removed approximately six days after fertilization, approximately one day after the blastocyst started to form.

Superfluous copies of chromosomes cause abnormalities
Extracting the naive cells at this time ensures that the cells have not yet received any genetic instructions that determine their future development. The new technology could be particularly helpful in future research on diseases due to abnormal chromosome numbers, the experts say. The human body typically contains 23 pairs of identical chromosomes, 22 pairs and a pair of sex chromosomes. But that's not always the case. For example, some children born with Down syndrome have additional copies that can cause abnormalities. In many normal early-stage embryos, too, we can identify several cells with an abnormal number of chromosomes, says researcher Dr. Jenny Nichols.

Because we can separate the cells and cultivate them individually, we are able to produce healthy and abnormal cell lines. This enables the scientists to compare the tissue of two models directly with one another. One tissue is healthy, the other, genetically identical tissue only has an additional chromosome. These new opportunities could help us to better understand diseases such as Down syndrome, say the doctors. (As)

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