About 15 to 20 percent of pregnancies fail in the US, ending up to miscarriages. And when no specific cause was know, this is usually blamed to genetics. However, reproducing is no easy task--it's so complex and has an astounding number of factors at play.
But aspiring mothers, take heart. Pentao Liu of the Sanger Institute in Cambridge, UK, and his team developed the most versatile stem cells (for now) made of cells from very young mouse embryos. With this, researchers may know more why many early pregnancies fail.
To prevent these from maturing, they've injected these with a cocktail of chemicals. That way, they're trapped in a very young, primordial state.
Dubbed “expanded-potential stem cells” (EPSCs) by the team, these cells can create placenta and yolk sac tissue, making it unique among all other stem cells in the lab. For those who don't know, these are actually vital for supporting embryonic and fetal development. Many miscarriages actually happens due to unknown problems with these tissues.
Interestingly, they've also found that those chemical cocktail can reverse back other types of stem cell. That means this can also be used to turn embryonic stem cells (from older embryos) and generated pluripotent stem cells (from mature cells) into EPSCs! “We can erase all memories in these cells and take them back to the equivalent of a blank piece of paper,” says Liu.
“This is very exciting research that lays the foundation for generating EPSCs from human embryos,” says Jan Brosensof the University of Warwick. “Such a resource would enable us to study how the developing embryo could be protected from an adverse womb environment and potentially lead to new treatments to prevent recurrent miscarriage.”
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