Stem cell differentiation – How to find a path through the labyrinth
Stem cells have the unique ability to self-renew and differentiate into many cells types of the body. This can be exploited for many in vitro and in vivo applications, from cell therapy to toxicology testing and drug discovery. However in order to do this routinely, robust and efficient stem cell differentiation protocols must be established. Novel and inventive approaches to find such differentiation protocols in a high throughput manner are currently being investigated, ranging from combinatorial cell culture to robotics and microfluidics.
Stem cells are self-renewing pluri or multipotent cells which have the potential to differentiate into a wide variety of cell types. This capacity represents a very promising source of material for clinical applications such as cell replacement therapy and research applications such as disease modelling and in vitro toxicology.
To enable us to exploit the capacity of stem cells for regenerative medicine and drug discovery we must be able to direct the differentiation of these cells in vitro efficiently, reproducibly and cost effectively. We will review here the types of stem cells available and their potential applications as well as the emerging technologies being applied to find differentiation protocols that fulfil all of the above criteria.
Embryonic stem (ES) cells
ES cells are pluripotent stem cells derived from the inner cell mass of early embryos. They have been isolated from many mammalian species including mice, rats, primates and humans (1, 2). ES cells have indefinite capacity for self-renewal in vitro without any loss of pluripotency. No counterparts ex ...