The experts have managed to create a novel type of stem cell . Its chief feature is that it possesses half the normal number of chromosomes that are to be found in an ordinary cell.
It is a stem cell that contains just 23 chromosomes. Scientists from two institutes have hooked up to generate the first embryonic stem cell that has only one copy of the human genome.
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Normally, two copies are found in each cell. The study was published in a journal. These happen to be the first such stem cells with half a genome in them.
Human cells are termed diploid. This is because they inherit half of the father’s chromosomes and half of the mother’s. The 23 from each parent add up to make a total of 46 chromosomes.
The exception to the rule is sperm and egg cells which are termed haploid. They contain just 23 chromosomes in them respectively. The haploid cells cannot divide any further to form more cells.
All previous experiments to use haploid cells for cellular division had met with utter failure. Now though the experts have managed to trigger cell division in unfertilized egg cells.
The experts dyed the DNA a fluorescent color and thus were able to follow the haploid cells among the diploid cells. The researchers showed that the haploid cells were pluripotent.
This means that they were capable of transforming themselves into neuronal, cardiac and pancreatic cells at the drop of a hat. All the while, they retained their single set of chromosomes. Thus now we finally have a new type of stem cell that might greatly aid future genetic research.
These cells are capable of providing researchers with a useful heuristic tool that will help in the understanding of sexual and asexual reproduction. Future cancer research and regeneration of organs and tissues might be possible thanks to this study.
"This study has given us a new type of human stem cell that will have an important impact on human genetic and medical research," said Nissim Benvenisty, MD, PhD, Director of the Azrieli Center for Stem Cells and Genetic Research at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and principal co-author of the study.
"These cells will provide researchers with a novel tool for improving our understanding of human development, and the reasons why we reproduce sexually, instead of from a single parent."
Haploid cells are easy to work with since their genes can be edited without any complications. In case of diploid cells, detecting an abnormal mutation is nearly impossible since the other half of the copy remains as a constant substitute.
"One of the greatest advantages of using haploid human cells is that it is much easier to edit their genes," explained Ido Sagi, the PhD student who led the research at the Azrieli Center for Stem Cells and Genetic Research at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
The stem cells were a match for the donated egg cells. This spells the eradication of such devastating diseases as blindness or diabetes. Also reproduction will be revolutionized via this novel approach. The study is a fine example of how collaboration between different institutes can lead to startling discoveries in biomedical science.
"This work is an outstanding example of how collaborations between different institutions, on different continents, can solve fundamental problems in biomedicine," said Dieter Egli, PhD, principal co-author of the study, and Assistant Professor of Developmental Cell Biology in Pediatrics at Columbia University Medical Center and a Senior Research Fellow at the NYSCF Research Institute and a NYSCF-Robertson Investigator.
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The scientists reported their findings in the journal Nature.