Scientists at the University of Cambridge have for the first time shown that it is possible to derive from a human embryo so-called ‘naïve’ pluripotent stem cells – one of the most flexible types of stem cell, which can develop into all human tissue other than the placenta.
In the earliest moments of a mammal’s life, the developing ball of cells formed shortly after fertilisation ‘does as mother says’ – it follows a course that has been pre-programmed in the egg by the mother. Extraordinary as this is, what happens then is even more remarkable.
Today, we commence a month-long focus on research on stem cells. To begin, Professors Austin Smith and Robin Franklin discuss how Cambridge scientists are helping to provide a stream of new knowledge about how our bodies are made and maintained, and how stem cells can fulfil the promise of being one of medical research’s great hopes.
Scientists have successfully ‘reset’ human pluripotent stem cells to the earliest developmental state – equivalent to cells found in an embryo before it implants in the womb (7-9 days old). These ‘pristine’ stem cells may mark the true starting point for human development, but have until now been impossible to replicate in the lab.
Two of the UK’s largest funders of medical research are to invest £8 million in a new world-leading centre for stem cell biology and medicine at the University of Cambridge.