Sep 062011
 
Stem Cell

Image by Mike_tn via Flickr

This achievement opens up an exciting new area of research with the potential to bring about a huge breakthrough in regenerative medicine

Human colon stem cells have been identified and grown in a petri dish in the lab for the first time. This achievement, made by researchers of the Colorectal Cancer Lab at the Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB Barcelona) and published in Nature Medicine, is a crucial advance towards regenerative medicine.

Throughout life, stem cells of the colon regenerate the inner layer of our large intestine in a weekly basis. For decades scientists had evidences of the existence of these cells yet their identity remained elusive. Scientists led by the ICREA Professor and researcher at the Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB Barcelona) Eduard Batlle discovered the precise location of the stem cells in the human colon and worked out a method that allows their isolation and in vitro expansion, that is their propagation in lab-plates (petri dishes).

Growing cells outside the body generally requires providing the cells in a petri dish with the right mix of nutrients, growth factors and hormones. But in the same way that each of the more than 200 types of cells in our body differs from the others so too do optimal growing conditions for them in the lab. Consequently, human adult stem cell culture in labs has been practically impossible until now.

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