Scientists have found a new way to coax stem cells into the desired cell type by mimicking the body’s natural approach to programming these cells. Using the new method, they successfully turned adult stem cells into muscle cells, and patients with muscular dystrophy could potentially benefit from this. The finding has been reported in the journal ACS Nano.
Stem cell differentiation is guided by a special protein, so-called transcription factor. The researchers used gold nanoparticles to mimic the structure and function of the natural transcription factor that induces muscle-cell growth and created an artificial version of it. NanoScript, the synthetic transcription factor, was then successfully used to turn stem cells from the fat tissue into muscle cells.
After in the 1990s scientists isolated human embryonic stem cells, this opened new horizons in medical research as stem cells have huge regenerative potential and can be applied in numerous diseases and conditions. After that, researchers have also discovered adult stem cells that are present in a number of organs in the body, including the skin, fat, brain, lungs etc. that can turn into a limited number of cell types. However, making these cells to turn into desirable cell types has been difficult. Now, this became more possible than ever - the researchers say they can design their NanoScript system to produce other cell types and tissues, too.