BURLINGAME, Calif.—The power of embryonic stem (ES) cells is their supposed ability to generate almost any cell type, opening the door to cell-based therapeutics and toxicity screening. Getting the cells to differentiate into the right cell type, however, has been a challenge. Recently, VistaGen Therapeutics announced that Dr. Gordon Keller, chair of its advisory board, has answered this challenge.
As described in Nature Biotechnology, PNAS, and Developmental Cell, Keller's group used GFP-labeled markers in mouse to develop protocols for ES cell differentiation into early liver and heart tissues.
Using chemically defined culture media supplemented with recombinant cytokines and growth factors, the researchers induced the signaling pathways involved in cell development. In the process, they generated cells that are not only morphologically characteristic of the mature tissues but also capable of integrating into and proliferating in damaged organs in vivo.
"We are very encouraged by the advancements made by Dr. Keller's research, and are excited to work in concert with him to develop reproducible and powerful biological systems that will open new approaches in the field of predictive toxicology assays involving the two most important target organs, the heart and liver, as well as new opportunities for drug discovery, especially in diabetes," said Dr. Ralph Snodgrass, president and CEO of VistaGen, which has an exclusive license for the ES cell technologies.