Method detailed in Cell will be commercialized by Stem Cell Sciences.

A group of researchers reports creating embryonic stem (ES) cells from rats. The technique is expected to allow the generation of consistently pure and stable rat ES cells from which drug discovery assays as well as genetically modified animals can be created.

The team, which is now based at Cambridge University, used technology licensed exclusively to Stem Cell Sciences (SCS) from the University of Edinburgh. Under the terms of its agreement with Edinburgh University, SCS has global exclusive rights to commercialize pluripotent rat stem cells, the specific culture medium used to generate and grow the cells, and rats derived therefrom.

The technique involved molecularly defined conditions designed to shield the ground state of authentic pluripotency from inductive differentiation stimuli. Undifferentiated cell lines developed that exhibited diagnostic features of ES cells, including colonization of multiple tissues in viable chimeras. Definitive ES cell status was established by transmission of the cell line genome to offspring.

The main advantage afforded by this technology is that it allows the generation of both knock-out rat models and knock-in models. “The impact of this new technique could be far-reaching in terms of opening the way to new and more effective drug discovery,” notes Alastair Riddell, M.D., CEO. “Rat models are expected to be highly predictive of human responses to drugs, particularly in psychiatric, neurological, and cardiovascular areas. We expect there to be considerable commercial interest from companies wanting to access this exciting technology.”

The scientists published their study in the December 26 issue of Cell.

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