University Of Toronto Predicts Stem Cell Transformation

University Of Toronto. Photo credit here.

University Of Toronto. Photo credit here.

At the University of Toronto, medical researchers have made a major breakthrough in stem cell methodology. Their efforts could reduce wait times for stem cell applications from months to days. In addition, the breakthrough improves control over the process of developing stem cells. This may be just the step forward that researchers need for a revolution in stem cell science.

Every stem cell is like a blank canvas, and researchers are racing to see what kind of treatments these blanks can become. So far the breakthroughs have saved many lives. The possibilities are considered virtually endless, but breakthroughs are slow because stem cell use is still in its infancy. Presently more than 50 applications of stem cells have been used successfully for very specialized treatments of cancers and genetic defects. Every day, researchers at a select few labs at top biomedical engineering schools have been seeking new ways to apply stem cells to many more cancers and diseases. The University of Toronto researchers have created a new methodology that streamlines the process of testing and working with the cells.

The University of Toronto methodology applies to regenerative medicine. This utilizes stem cells to grow new cells as a treatment. It also applies to future drug development which may be able to create safe drug treatments based on stem cell use or research.

The scientists utilized robotics and other automation to regulate a number of factors related to stem cells. The diagnostic platform can regulate the stem cell colony’s size. It can control the density of the stem cells. It can determine other parameters that make it possible to study the cells as they move through the process of turning into other cell types. By controlling the environment more completely, it allows for faster testing of any drugs or compounds that utilize stem cells. Faster screening and better observation methods should speed up the work of researchers across the world.

The keys are Sox2 and Oct4, two proteins inside stem cells. The Toronto research team determined that by following these two proteins, it is possible to track four types of early cell fates at one time. Current research protocols can only perform individual screenings, wasting valuable time and resources. With this bridge between different cell lines, scientists also should be able to better predict genetic abnormalities.

Researchers will find that this high-throughput platform should save them valuable time as they struggle to find new cures. It will also preserve resources that can be used for more research or to fund treatments. The breakthrough is the work of the University’s Biomaterials and Biomedical Engineering Department. Professor Peter Zandstra is the Canada Research Chair in Bioengineering. His team has published its findings in the medical journal Nature Methods.