Researchers at the University of California San Diego have discovered an easy and efficient way to coax human pluripotent stem cells to regenerate bone tissue -- by feeding them adenosine, a naturally occurring molecule in the body. The stem-cell-derived bone tissue helped repair cranial bone defects in mice without eliciting the development of tumors or causing infection. The work might lead to regenerative treatments for patients with critical bone defects and soldiers who have suffered traumatic bone injuries. The findings, published online on August 31, 2016 in Science Advances, might also lead to a simple, scalable, and inexpensive way to manufacture a pure population of bone-building cells. The new open-access article is titled “Small Molecule-Driven Direct Conversion of Human Pluripotent Stem Cells into Functional Osteoblasts.” "One of the broader goals of our research is to make regenerative treatments more accessible and clinically relevant by developing easy, efficient, and cost-effective ways to engineer human cells and tissues," said Shyni Varghese, Ph.D., a bioengineering professor at UC San Diego and senior author of the study. Pluripotent stem cells are capable of differentiating into any type of cell in the body, such as muscle, heart, skin, or bone Because of this ability, pluripotent stem cells have promising therapeutic uses to repair or regenerate various tissues and organs. But getting pluripotent stem cells to differentiate into a particular type of cell that can function inside the body is not simple. Directing stem cell differentiation is like following a complex recipe, involving a long list of ingredients and steps that make the process costly and inefficient.
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