Study Proves that a Single Cell Can Generate a Complete Solid Organ

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A new study describes the enumeration, phenotypic characterization and some of the functional properties of the mouse mammary gland stem cell. This study also shows that a single cell can generate the entire glandular component of the mammary gland, the first time a single cell has been shown to completely generate a solid organ.

Researcher Dr. John Stingl from StemCell Technologies and Dr. Connie Eaves of the Terry Fox Laboratory at the British Columbia Cancer Research Center collaborated with the Michael Smith Genome Sciences Center and the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research to publish these findings in the article “Purification and unique properties of mammary epithelial stem cells” in the February 23, 2006 issue of Nature.

This article was first published on-line January 5, 2006 simultaneously with a related study entitled “Generation of a functional mammary gland from a single stem cell” by Dr. Jane Visvader and coworkers from the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research, in collaboration with John Stingl from StemCell Technologies. Both manuscripts confirm many of each other’s findings.

The results of the Vancouver study are highly relevant to the cancer research community as the concept of cancer stem cells suggests that stem cells, or cells with stem cell-like properties, are frequently the targets of malignant transforming changes. The ability to isolate these rare stem cells to high purity now permits the determination of the gene expression profile of these cells, an important step in understanding the basic mechanisms that regulate normal stem cell behavior. These same mechanisms may also regulate the behavior of cells that propagate breast tumours. Elucidation of these mechanisms may therefore be key to the rational development of new therapies for the treatment of breast cancer and possibly other tumour types.

The publication of these experiments is a result of StemCell Technologies’ ongoing efforts as a leader in basic stem cell biology research, as well as in the development and commercialization of specialty cell culture media, cell separation products and ancillary reagents for stem cell research.

The work in Vancouver was supported by grants from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, the Canadian Stem Cell Network, Genome BC/Canada, the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation (BC/Yukon Chapter), the British Columbia Cancer Foundation and the National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia.

About StemCell Technologies:

StemCell Technologies is a privately owned, market-driven biotechnology company located in Vancouver, British Columbia. StemCell Technologies is committed to supporting stem cell and many other areas of life science research worldwide by providing enabling research tools that are innovative, timely and of consistently high quality. StemCell's specialized media and cell separation products are available for a wide range of research applications such as cancer, hematology, immunology, cell transplantation and gene therapy, and are complemented by a diverse array of cytokines, antibodies, tissue culture reagents, as well as services including contract assays, proficiency testing, and training.

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Diane Miller
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