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September 3, 2008

Two Synthetic Molecules Developed to Induce Stem Cell Differentiation

  • A group of scientists designed two molecules, EC19 and EC23, that can be used to trigger stem cell differentiation. They found that these molecules are more stable than the naturally occurring molecule currently used to induce stem cells to differentiate in the laboratory – All-trans-retinoic Acid (ATRA).

    The team of researchers tested the effectiveness of EC19 and EC23 on four types of stem cells. They note that each were more effective at causing the cells to transform into specific types of tissue. EC19 is particularly effective at producing epithelial cells, they add.

    “Another significant characteristic of these synthetic molecules is that they direct stem cells down specific pathways, meaning that they individually will be useful for very specific types of drug development work,” ,” says Stefan Przyborski, Ph.D. a reader in the School of Biological and Biomedical Sciences at Durham University. “EC23, for example, produces almost 40 per cent more neurons than ATRA.”

    The investigators found that these molecules were also not sensitive to light and therefore did not degrade. They are now developing a molecular toolkit of synthetic compounds that are tailor-made for specific stem cell and drug development work.

    Researchers from Durham University, the North East England Stem Cell Institute, and Reinnervate collaborated on the study. The results are published in Organic and Biomolecular Chemistry.