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Will ‘factories’ churn out billions of stem cells?

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"The possibilities for regenerative medicine are still being researched in the form of clinical trials," says Morgan Alexander. "What we are doing here is paving the way for the manufacture of stem cells in large numbers when those therapies are proved to be safe and effective." (Credit: hans van den berg/Flickr)

Scientists have discovered a fully synthetic substrate that has the potential to grow billions of stem cells.

The findings could forge the way for the creation of  “stem cell factories”—the mass production of human embryonic (pluripotent) stem cells that could provide an off-the-shelf product for clinical use in the treatment of the heart, liver, and brain.

For example, the damage from a major heart attack could cost you around five billion heart cells. Future stem cell treatments will require this number and more to ensure those cells are replaced and improve your chances of survival.

To solve the problem, researchers have been searching for polymers on which human pluripotent stem cells can be grown and differentiated in vast numbers—billions at a time.

scientist holds vial
(Credit: U. Nottingham)

“The possibilities for regenerative medicine are still being researched in the form of clinical trials,” says Morgan Alexander, professor of biomedical surfaces at University of Nottingham. “What we are doing here is paving the way for the manufacture of stem cells in large numbers when those therapies are proved to be safe and effective.”

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Using a high throughput materials discovery approach, researchers discovered the human-made material, free from possible contamination and batch variability.

“The field of regenerative medicine has snowballed in the last five years and over the coming five years a lot more patients will be receiving stem cell treatments,” says Chris Denning, professor of stem cell biology.

“Clinical trials are still in the very early stages. However, with this kind of product, if we can get it commercialized and validated by the regulators it could be helping patients in two to three years.”

Conditions of the heart, liver, and brain are all under investigation as possible new stem cell treatments. People are already receiving stem cells derived from eye cells for eye disorders.

Source: University of Nottingham

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