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In a world where stem cell research suffers from ethical turbulence, scientists forge ahead by new means.

Just what would science do without the venerable lab mouse? Medical researchers have been doing their work with the fuzzy rodents for decades. Duties have ranged from the mundane cancer therapy testing to the less-than-normal growth of human body parts on their backs. However, chances are if you've read about some kind of medical breakthrough, mice were involved.

This week, a study, senior authored by Joyce Bischoff, Ph.D., of Harvard Medical School and Children's Boston Hospital, published in the American Heart Association's Circulation Research journal outlines the success of a group of researchers using adult progenitor cells to grow functional human vascular tissue in laboratory mice. This is not the first time DailyTech has reported on the use of endothelial progenitor cells (EPC) being used to successfully grow vascular tissue, but MIT's breakthrough was slightly different in a few ways.

While the MIT process only uses EPCs, Bischoff's group used both EPCs and mesenchymal progenitor cells (MPC). EPCs create the lining of the blood vessels while MPCs form the protection and stability cells. The group used cells harvested from various sources and found that the combinations that yielded the greatest density of vascular tissue were adult blood and bone marrow-harvested cells or umbilical cord blood and adult bone marrow-harvested cells.

Another part of the process that sets the two methods apart is their growing environments. While the MIT tissue was grown on silicon plates and coaxed with various catalysts, Bischoff's group only seeded their cells with nutrients for a short time, and then implanted them into mice where the cells grew on their own.

Though the vessels grew successfully in about a week and functioned flawlessly for the entire four week study, Bischoff would like to see faster growth in the implanted cells. Many diseases and medical conditions could be treated by quickly growing vascular tissue. Foremost is ischemic tissue, which is tissue that does not receive the oxygen-rich blood it needs to survive. Rapidly growing new vessels in areas that suffer from ischemia could help prevent cell death and the more quickly the vessels can be grown, the less the affected tissue will suffer.

Using progenitor cells harvested from adult donors is certainly a step forward in tissue engineering research. With the ethical concerns involved in using stem cells from various sources, including aborted fetuses, circumvention of the issue entirely may be a good idea from many standpoints. Protest from lobbyist groups has stymied important research in the past, and where it concerns medical research, is especially detrimental.





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