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barbara
10-24-2011, 11:37 AM
Tim Dean (Australian Life Scientist)24 October, 2011

Monash researchers have developed a new technique using green fluorescent protein that could lead the way to an inexhaustible supply of specialised cells derived from stem cells.

The trick with stem cells is plucking out the right differentiated cells from the culture. Now a team of researchers from Monash University have developed a neat trick to isolate just the cells you want.

Once refined, the technique could lead to a potentially inexhaustible supply of cells for research and drug discovery.

The researchers, led by Dr David Elliott, and Professors Andrew Elefanty and Ed Stanley of Monash Immunology and Stem Cell Laboratories, trialled the technique with heart cells – cardiomyocytes – by turning them green.

They inserted a green fluorescent protein gene from jelly fish at a gene locus that is known to be expressed in heart cells throughout life, NKX2-5.

This turned the heart cells green, making them easily distinguished from the other cell types in the stem cell culture.

Using this technique they also found two protein markers that will help identify cardiomyocytes in future without requiring the genetic modification and the inserted GFP gene.

“Importantly, we can use these handles to isolate and study cardiac cells grown from the stem cells of heart disease patients and, in this way, model heart disease in a dish,” said Dr Elliott.

“Up until now the development of drugs to treat heart disease has been hampered by the lack of a dependable supply of heart cells for experimentation,” he said.

The team is using similar strategies to isolate insulin-producing cells for the treatment of diabetes and blood cells for the treatment of leukaemia.

The technique is detailed in a paper published today in Nature Methods.