Scots scientists create new stem-cell technology


by a Newsnet reporter

Stem-cells are a special kind of cell.  In theory, properly triggered they can be grown into any body part or structure, offer the potential for the opening up of a whole new branch of medicine.  Stem-cells taken from adult donors have always proven difficult to grow in the laboratory.  The difficulties in cultivating large numbers of the cells has until now proven to be a major difficulty in the development of treatments based on the cells.

However recent work headed by a team of scientists at Glasgow University and Southampton University in England have made an important new breakthrough which promises to revolutionise stem cell treatments.  Using similar technology to that used in the manufacture of Blu-Ray discs, the team has created a plastic whose surface is covered in tiny pits.  The plastic then acts as a framework upon which the stem cells can grow.  

Previous materials used as frameworks for stem-cell cultivation have proven to be of limited effectiveness.  The new material allows significantly larger numbers of stem-cells to be cultivated, making it many times more efficient.  

Team leader Dr Matthew Dalby from the University of Glasgow told the BBC: “This new nano-structured surface can be used to very effectively culture mesencyhmal stem cells, taken from sources such as bone marrow, which can then be put to use in musculoskeletal, orthopedic and connective tissues.

“If the same process can be used to culture other types of stem cells too – and this research is underway in our labs – our technology could be the first step on the road to developing large-scale stem cell culture factories, which would allow for the creation of a wide range of therapies for many common disease such as diabetes, arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.”

The team now hope to make the material commercially available.  The study was funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and the University of Glasgow.