For the first time, stem cell researchers at the University ofMinnesota have coaxed human embryonic stem cells to createcancer-killing cells in the laboratory, paving the way for futuretreatments for various types of cancers (or tumors). The research willbe published in the Oct. 15 issue of the Journal of Immunology.
Researchers generated "natural killer" cells from the humanembryonic stem cells. As part of the immune system, natural killercells normally are present in the blood stream and are play a role indefending the body against infection and against some cancers.
"This is the first published research to show the ability tomake cells from human embryonic stem cells that are able to treat andfight cancer, especially leukemias and lymphomas," said Dan Kaufman,M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor of medicine in the Stem Cell Instituteand Department of Medicine at the University of Minnesota and leadauthor of the study.
"We hear a lot about the potential of stem cells to treatconditions such as Parkinson's disease, diabetes, and Alzheimer'sdisease. This research suggests it is possible that we could use humanembryonic stem cells as a source for immune cells that could bettertarget and destroy cancer cells and potentially treat infections,"Kaufman added.
The results also provided the researchers with a model of how the immune system develops.
Next, the researchers will test whether the human embryonicstem cell-derived natural killer cells can target cancer cells inanimal models.
This research was done on two of the federally approvedembryonic stem cell lines. Kaufman said, however, that if the researchwould lead to a treatment for people, new lines would have to bedeveloped. The research was funded by the National Institutes of Healthand the American Society of Hematology.
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