New technology yields more than 140 cell types from human embryonic stem cells

Advanced Cell Technology system could commercialize ES cell therapies

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ALAMEDA, Calif.—Advanced Cell Technology Inc. (ACT), a biotechnology company applying cellular technology in the emerging field of regenerative medicine, has unveiled a new technology that could revolutionize the industrialization and commercialization of human embryonic stem (ES) cell therapies.

In a recently released research report, The ACTCellerate Initiative: large-scale combinatorial cloning of novel human embryonic stem cell derivatives, ACT reports on a new technology that yields more than 140 previously uncharacterized cell types, many on an industrial scale.

The report describes a system that was established to isolate and clonally expand tissue specific precursors that previously could only be isolated from aborted human fetal tissue. Although some researchers have reported in the past that individual cell types have been generated from ES cells, such cells have often only been generated in small quantities.

The research team, led by Dr. Michael D. West, CEO of BioTime Inc. and an adjunct professor at the University of California, Berkeley, demonstrated that primitive precursors of the many body cell types have a previously unpredicted ability to be propagated from a single cell, leading to the clonal expansion of these embryonic progenitor cell types.

A careful, genome-wide analysis of gene expression showed evidence that the "Zip code" the body uses to place cells in their proper location is preserved in these cells, giving researchers a means to make cell types from a single location in the body.

Another important finding in this publication is that these normal embryonic progenitor cell types show the expression of certain genes—such as oncofetal markers—often associated in the literature with malignant cancer. However, when used in this highly purified form, no malignant tumors could be observed when the cells were injected into mice. This indicates that expression of such genes is a function of these cells' normal primitive stage of differentiation and not linked to any potential for disease.

ACT's advance holds great promise for future research and may one day lead to many new cell-based therapies in the emerging field of regenerative medicine, says Dr. Chris Mason, head of the Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine Bioprocessing unit of University College London's Biochemical Engineering Department.

"This is an enormously exciting development for the regen sector," Mason says. "The research reported… represents a quantum leap forward in embryonics, the mapping and characterization of the cells of early human development. Without any doubt, the ACTCellerate technology will greatly hasten the translation of human embryonic stem cell-based therapies into safe and effective products for routine clinical practice."

Researchers from the Burnham Institute for Medical Research, the Ontario Cancer Institute and the University of California, San Francisco also contributed to the report, which will be published in this month's edition of Regenerative Medicine.

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