More MS news articles for Aug 2001

Skin May Provide a Source of Multipotent Stem Cells

WESTPORT, CT (Reuters Health) Aug 13 - In experiments with cells from the skin of mice and humans, researchers at McGill University in Montreal have been able generate both neural and mesodermal cells. This suggests that skin might be a source of autologous stem cells for transplantation. Their report appears in the September issue of Nature Cell Biology.

"In both mice and humans, we have been able to isolate what appear to be multipotent stem cells from the dermis of skin," lead researcher Dr. Freda D. Miller told Reuters Health. These stem cells, which the researchers term skin-derived precursors (SKPs), are relatively abundant in the skin, so one needs only a small sample to isolate them.

Dr. Miller and colleagues found that SKPs proliferate well and are able to generate cells of both neural and mesodermal lineage. Cells from the neural lineage "give rise to cells that look like neurons and glia," she said, "while on the mesodermal lineage, they produce smooth muscle cells and adipocytes."

SKPs are more accessible than muscle and bone marrow stem cells and also seem to be more easily multipotent, she continued. "Most adult stem cells seem to be strongly tissue-biased. The difference with these cells is that they seem to be quite promiscuous." One reason for that, is that dermis contains cells of many different kinds.

In terms of potency, Dr. Miller said that these skin cells fall somewhere in the middle between embryonic stem cells and stem cells from muscle or bone marrow.

"In the 'dream' situation, you would have a patient with, say, a spinal cord injury, and you could take a piece of their skin and isolate these cells, expand them, and use them to treat the patient," Dr. Miller explained.

"We are taking the human data and starting to really see if the human cells are the same as the rodent cells," Dr. Miller told Reuters Health. "We are also doing a lot of transplant work," she said.

"In vivo, we are trying to find out how multipotential these cells are and whether they will integrate into tissues. We are placing a particular emphasis on producing cardiac cells and pancreatic islet cells."

Nat Cell Biol 2001;3:778-784.

Copyright © 2001 Reuters Ltd