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Can Stem Cells Regenerate Bone, Cartilage, and Heart Muscle?

By Mark Silvanic, 9:00 am on

A team of researchers recently advanced the field of regenerative medicine one step further by uncovering more of the mystery behind cell differentiation. Thanks to the efforts of the scientists from the Stanford University School of Medicine, researchers now understand how 12 types of cells that form bones, connective and cardiac tissue mature from stem cells. Colorado Springs elder care providers believe that these findings will benefit those in need of regenerative procedures.

Stem Cell Anatomy and Growth

In the early stages of embryonic development, stem cells form the ectoderm (outer layer), the endoderm (inner layer) and the mesoderm (middle layer) before differentiating further. The middle layer is what was of particular interest to researchers. The cells that make up the mesoderm region eventually become bone cells, blood cells and vessels, connective tissue, cardiac tissue, skeletal muscle and skin. Understanding the reason why these stem cells transform gives scientists a better idea of how to replicate these tissues. 

Complexity of Signals

The researchers learned that differentiation occurs due to a variety of biological signals from RNA genetic material coordinating with chemical signals known as BMP, TGF and WNT. Certain gene sequences combined with the addition of TGF beta create one type of mesoderm cell. Another gene sequence combined with WNT and blocking BMP or adding BMP while blocking WNT ensures the growth of yet another type of mesoderm cell. By matching and rearranging the many signal possibilities, researchers successfully programmed the stem cells to transform into bone and cardiac cells. These cells were then implanted into laboratory mice and produced bone and heart muscle. 

Discovery Benefits

Equipped with the knowledge of how to guide stem cell growth, the discovery enables scientists to regenerate living tissue within days instead of weeks or months. The manmade tissues can then be transplanted into patients as a means of repairing bone, connective tissue or cardiac muscle. The information gained from the research may also lead to a clearer understanding of how congenital defects develop. 

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