The ability to grow replacements for failing body parts is rapidly approaching reality at the University of Minnesota’s new Stem Cell Institute.
It was probably the best surprise Catherine Verfaillie, M.D., has ever had.
A professor in the Department of Medicine at the University of Minnesota, Verfaillie has seen plenty of unusual things in the dozen or so years she’s spent exploring the spongy marrow that fills our bones. But none beats what she and graduate student Morayma Reyes found growing in a culture dish one day in 1997.
Where they had a “planted” mesenchymal stem cells – cells found in marrow that typically give rise to bone – the researchers found not just bone cells, but cells that make up the lining of blood vessels as well. Curious, they began modifying the growing conditions – and soon found they could coax the culture into producing cartilage, heart, muscle, brain, and liver cells as well. It was as though they had stumbled upon a packet of magic seeds that, depending on where they were planted, could grow into carrots, broccoli, corn, or cabbage. [Read more…]