A*STAR scientists lead human embryonic stem cell study

PHOTO: A*STAR scientists lead human embryonic stem cell study

SINGAPORE - Researchers from A*STAR Singapore took lead roles in a study that identified a portion of the genome mutated during long-term culture of human embryonic stem cells (hESCs).

The three-year study compared the genome of cell lines from around the world that were grown in cell culture for a short period of time, to those grown in cell culture for a longer period of time.

During long-term culture, these cells can mutate, which can compromise the cells' utility for regenerative medicine.

Sceintists used these samples to pinpoint an area of the genome that contains genes that affect the cell's ability to control its own growth.

This study provides important information for evaluating the genetic integrity of hESCs, as these embryonic stem cells hold potential for future cell therapy and regenerative medicine.

This same genome region has also recently been identified to occur in many types of cancer, and is likely to hold information on the factors at play in cancerous cell growth.

The study was a worldwide collaboration, led by Drs Peter Andrews of the University of Sheffield (UK), Paul Robson of the Genome Institute of Singapore (GIS), Steve Oh of Singapore's Bioprocessing Technology Institute (BTI), and Barbara Knowles and others in the international stem cell community. The GIS, IMB and BTI are research institutes under the umbrella of the Agency for Science, Technology and Research, (A*STAR), Singapore.

It is the largest conducted on the genetic stability of cultured hESCs, involving 125 ethically diverse genetic lines originating from 38 laboratories globally.