Human embryonic stem cells before and after being differentiated into nerve cells. Credit: Nissim Benvenisty

Stem cells are found in all multicellular organisms. They have the ability to divide (mitosis) and differentiate into diverse specialized cell types and can also self-renew to produce more stem cells.

This ability probably makes them the “holy grail” of medical science at the moment, since they hold the remarkable potential to develop into many different cell types. And to unlock this ability would make it possible to reconstruct damaged tissue.

But until recently, scientists primarily worked with two kinds of stem cells from animals and humans: the embryonic stem cell and the non-embryonic “somatic” or “adult” stem cell.

The so-called adult stem cell is undifferentiated cells found in many organs and differentiated tissues, but with a limited capacity for both self-renewal (in the laboratory) and differentiation.

From Blood to Blood Vessel

Now, researchers at Cambridge University have managed to create stem cells from ordinary blood. From a blood sample, they have isolated a particular type of cell and then “reconstructed” those into stem cells for the patient. They have thus succeeded in building blood vessels using these stem cells.

The scientists created the stem cells by isolating what is known as “late outgrowth endothelial progenitor cells” in the blood. These are then turned into so-called “induced pluripotent stem” cells, which can be turned into other body cells.

The new research has been published in “Stem Cells: Translational Medicine” and implies a breakthrough in stem cell science.

Researcher Dr. Amer Rana told the BBC; “We are excited to have developed a practical and efficient method to create stem cells from a cell type found in blood… Tissue biopsies are undesirable—particularly for children and the elderly—whereas taking blood samples is routine for all patients.” “The ultimate aim is to grow tissue … which we can use in replacement therapies, that would be ideal,” “But a really important step is, rather than simply think about the technology in a laboratory, transfer it into a clinic and make it useful for everybody.”

Hit this link to see an engaging and visually informative video about stem cells in general, produced by

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