Scientists May Soon Make Muscles and Bones from Human Stem Cells Quickly

tissue research
Science & Medicine

Scientists discovered that they are able to combine positive and negative signals which can turn stem cells down certain pathways. This allows them to develop into certain tissue, including tissue of the heart, muscle, or bone. The hope is that the tissue will be created in days, rather than weeks or months, as are usually required. This will allow the tissue to be much more effective much more quickly.

The tissue will be able to integrate seamlessly into existing heart, muscle, or bone tissue. It will be able to heal any number of injuries, help repair the damage caused by a heart attack, or recreate joints for the elderly population instead of giving them hip and joint replacements.

Director of Stanford’s Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine, Irving Weissman, MD, said:

“Regenerative medicine relies on the ability to turn pluripotent human stem cells into specialized tissue stem cells that can engraft and function in patient. It took us years to be able to isolate blood-forming and brain-forming stem cells. Here we used our knowledge of the developmental biology of many other animal models to provide the positive and negative signaling factors to guide the developmental choices of these tissue and organ stem cells. Within five to nine days we can generate virtually all the pure cell populations that we need.” [1]

Graduate student and co-lead author Kyle Loh also stated that they used the process to figure out how to stop the creation of unwanted cells, which took the team a long time to master. The researchers were also able to produce 10 specific types of cells, including the cells that lead to bones in humans and beating heartbeat cells.

Loh stated:

“Previously, making these cell types took weeks to months, primarily because it wasn’t possible to accurately control cell fate. As a result, researchers would end up with a hodgepodge of cell types.” [2]

This new study of what is called “precursor cells” has made way for further study on regeneration and eliminating diseases. The researchers hope to begin to relieve and cure diseases in animals as a next step.


[1] Stanford University

[2] Arizona Daily Sun