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Streamlined Stem Cell Procedure May Speed Up Research

Approach could 'open up the whole embryonic stem cell field,' scientist says

THURSDAY, Jan. 7, 2010 (HealthDay News) -- A new way of genetically modifying human embryonic stem cells would enable rapid development of stem cell lines that could be used for research into genetic diseases, say U.S. scientists.

The technique, developed by a team at the University of California, San Diego, uses bacterial artificial chromosomes (BACs) to insert defective copies of genes into stem cells.

BACs are synthesized circles of human DNA, which bacteria replicate just like their own chromosomes. When BACs with altered copies of specific genes are placed in human cells, they sometimes pair up with a matching segment of human chromosome and swap segments of DNA.

Using this method, the researchers said, they were able to substitute modified genes in 20 percent of treated stem cells.

"This will help to open up the whole embryonic stem cell field," Yang Xu, a biology professor and director of the study, said in a news release from the university. "Otherwise, there's really few efficient ways you can study genetics with them."

A report on the study is in the Jan. 8 issue of Cell Stem Cell.

More information

The U.S. National Institutes of Health has more about stem cells.

SOURCE: University of California, San Diego, news release, Jan. 7, 2010
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