June 2nd, 2003
Multiple Sclerosis Society of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
Scientists have identified a molecule which allows stem cells to multiply without limit. The UK researchers have named the molecule Nanog, after the mythological Celtic land of the ever young.
Research into stem cells is expected to lead to revolutionary new treatments for a range of conditions but is controversial because it involves using cells taken from embryos.
The discovery by a team at the Institute for Stem Cell Research at Edinburgh University could help to overcome that problem.
Their finding could ultimately enable scientists to transform stem cells from adults into cells which have all the characteristics of those taken from embryos.
Professor Austin Smith, who heads the Edinburgh research team, described the finding as exciting. He said the discovery unlocked the secrets of embryonic stem cells.
"This molecule alone is powerful enough to define these cells as embryonic stem cells. It is the master molecule. If Nanog has the same effect in humans as we have found in mice, this will be a key step in developing embryonic stem cells for medical treatments."
The findings were published in the journal Cell, alongside another paper
by researchers from the Nara Institute of Science and Technology in Japan.
The two groups realised they discovered the same molecule last year and
have since collaborated to bring this work to completion.
Copyright © 2003, Multiple Sclerosis Society of Great Britain and Northern Ireland