Can natural sugars help create stem cell therapies?

July 23rd, 2008 - 4:38 pm ICT by IANS  

London, July 23 (IANS) Scientists are examining whether the body’s natural sugars can be utilised for creating stem cell treatments for heart disease and to repair nerve damage. All cells that make up tissues, like skin, liver, brain and blood, are surrounded of a layer of sugars. These sugars help them know their types and to respond to other cells which surround them and the chemical messages that pass in between.

Catherine Merry, of the School of Materials, who is leading the study, said: “At present, the way in which cells make these sugars is not well understood. From the little we do know, we believe isolated fragments of these sugars could be used to instruct cells to behave in particular ways.

“We also think we might be able to force cells to make one particular type of sugar and not another, thereby influencing the way in which that cell grows and interacts with other cells.

“We also believe our research might suggest how sugars can be used to help embryonic stem cells grow in the lab - or how they can be instructed to become cell types which could be of use in human therapies to treat problems with nerve, heart muscle or blood cells.

“Although the prospect of creating cells from embryonic stem cells for use in humans is still a considerable time away, research such as ours helps move towards this goal.”

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