hESCs produce niche cells that maintain the parent cell.

Stem cells are not just directly influenced by cells in the local environment but can actually produce distinctive niche cells, which then release stem cell nourishing proteins, according to scientists at McMaster Cancer and Stem Cell Research Institute.

The study found that human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) have the unique ability to generate human-ES-cell-derived fibroblast-like niche cells (hdFs) in vitro despite removal from their in vivo microenvironment. These hdFs then provide a continuous source of supportive proteins, including insulin-like growth factor 2, which the researchers believe could be the protein that sustains hESCs.

“This will be critical for future developments involving drug and gene screening of human ES cells that will be required before clinical use of human stem cells of this kind,” says John Kelton, dean and vp of McMaster’s Faculty of Health Sciences.

The article is published in Nature.

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