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Adult Stem Cell Researchers:

We Can Do More With Adult Stem Cells

At a American Chemical Society this week, teams of stem cell researchers told participants that they can get more out of adult stem cells than previously thought. The scientists said that adult stem cells can become any cell in the body with a little bit of coaxing.

If so, then one of the big reasons given for embryonic stem cell research is no longer valid and human life doesn't need to be destroyed for stem cells.

Three presentations at the ACS conference touched on the possibility, according to a WebMD report. The papers used different studies by showed similar findings.

The papers all found that adult stem cells taken from bone marrow ordinarily would have become blood cells but can be persuaded to become organ or even nerve cells. The changes occurred when the scientists altered the physical environment in which the cells grew.

Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley used a workout of sorts to prompt adult stem cells to become blood vessel cells. They attached the bone marrow cells to an elastic membrane that stretched and relaxed over the course of several days to get them to grow.

Eventually the adult stem cells turned into smooth muscle cells.

Berkeley scientist Kyle Kurpinski told WebMD, "If a cell cannot flex its muscles like Arnold Schwarzenegger, it cannot build its muscles."

"Gov. Schwarzenegger got big biceps by lifting dumbbells ... It works the same way for stem cells to become smooth muscle cells. They have to sit in culture day in and day out lifting weights," he added.

In a second report, scientists at the University of Pennsylvania told the ACS meeting about a discovery LifeNews.com previously covered. They discussed new data showing adult stem cells changing into most any environment in which they're inserted.

Penn researchers found that mesenchymal stem cells, which regularly reside in the bone marrow as part of the body's natural regenerative mechanism, can turn into bone, muscle, neurons or other types of tissue depending on the feel of their physical environment.

The adult stem cells depended on physical clues from their local environment in order to transform into different types of tissue.

The third report, given by E. Terry Papoutsakis, Ph.D., professor of chemical and biological engineering at Northwestern University, showed that blood stem cells can become many different kinds of cells. He found that out by manipulating the conditions in which the adult stem cells were grown.

"We demonstrate these cells can do more than is currently accepted," Papoutsakis said, according to the WebMD report. "There are several approaches to harness the potential of the billions of stem cells we make every day."

The studies are good news for patients because adult stem cells have already proven more effective than embryonic ones and have developed dozens of applications for potential cures and treatments.