Not all stem cells are created equal, study reveals

Phys.org | March 22, 2019

Researchers from the University of Toronto's Institute for Biomaterials and Biomedical Engineering (IBBME) and the Donnelly Centre have discovered a population of cells – dubbed to be "elite" – that play a key role in the process of transforming differentiated cells into stem cells. The finding has important implications for regenerative medicine. Stem cells have the ability to transform into specialized cells – from the lung to the brain. Stem cells are common in embryos, but within the last 15 years, a technique called cell reprogramming has enabled scientists to turn mature cells back into so-called pluripotent stem cells, with the power to develop into any cell type. The technique was recognized with the Nobel Prize in 2012. While reprogramming is well understood, less is known about the intricacies of how individual reprogramming cells behave in a population setting. University Professor Peter Zandstra's group (he is a dual appointment at U of T and the University of British Columbia) recently led a study examining this and found a group of cells that appear to have a competitive advantage in reprogramming. The research is published today in Science.

Spotlight

The biotechnology industry (Biotech) is now about 30 years old – a long enough time in which to evaluate how it’s done. Unfortunately, despite some notable successes, it hasn’t completely fulfilled its promise. The business model on which Biotech has historically relied is also breaking down, as the research base moves east and raising funds gets harder. And the distinctions between Biotech and the pharmaceutical industry (Pharma) are disappearing, with the convergence of the two sectors. But Biotech can’t turn to Pharma for guidance because Pharma’s business model has other flaws – as we explained in “Pharma 2020: Challenging business models”, the White Paper we published in April 2009.1 So what should Biotech do?

Spotlight

The biotechnology industry (Biotech) is now about 30 years old – a long enough time in which to evaluate how it’s done. Unfortunately, despite some notable successes, it hasn’t completely fulfilled its promise. The business model on which Biotech has historically relied is also breaking down, as the research base moves east and raising funds gets harder. And the distinctions between Biotech and the pharmaceutical industry (Pharma) are disappearing, with the convergence of the two sectors. But Biotech can’t turn to Pharma for guidance because Pharma’s business model has other flaws – as we explained in “Pharma 2020: Challenging business models”, the White Paper we published in April 2009.1 So what should Biotech do?

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