Rare stem cells extracted from adult breast tissue are pluripotent and can become most cell types, researchers at the University of California at San Francisco have found.
When the cells were put either in mice, or in cell culture, the cells could differentiate to produce multiple cell types, including those that proceed to make heart, intestine, brain, pancreas and even cartilage. It was previously thought that there were no pluripotent cells in the body after the embryonic stage of human development.
While a therapeutic use of the cells has yet to be determined, they could potentially generate new tissue – a “patch kit" – to heal wounds or reconstruct damaged or missing organs. They also could be used as a resource to study how cells become pluripotent, and how they repair and replace themselves.
The scientists are currently searching for the rare cells in other organs of the body. They hypothesize that these “universal patch kits” are scattered throughout the body of adult men and women. The study was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
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