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Stem Cells to be Produced for Research in Muscle Disorders

Human embryonic stem cell colony (Clay Glennon/Univ of Wisconsin-Madison, NIGMS)

Human embryonic stem cell colony (Clay Glennon/Univ of Wisconsin-Madison, NIGMS)

BioTime Inc. in Alameda, California says it will market to researchers progenitors of muscle stem cells bearing hereditary diseases. The company says it will produce the cells from five human embryonic stem cell (hESC) lines provided by Reproductive Genetics Institute (RGI) in Chicago.

The cell lines will display the genes for six hereditary muscle diseases: Duchenne muscular dystrophy, Emery-Dreifuss muscular dystrophy, spinal muscular atrophy Type I, facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy 1A, and Becker muscular dystrophy. Many couples carrying genes for inherited diseases are at significant risk of parenting children with these types of muscular dystrophy and related diseases.

BioTime says RGI has produced hESC lines carrying genes for some of these hereditary diseases, and BioTime will use these cell lines to produce progenitor cells that will be offered to medical researchers. The company will differentiate RGI’s hESC lines into purified muscle progenitors using its technology that isolates embryonic progenitor cells, which are at an intermediate stage between embryonic stem cells and fully differentiated cells. Progenitor cells, says BioTime, can be manufactured on a large scale and in a highly purified state, which may make it easier to work with these cells rather than human embryonic stem cells.

Human embryonic stem cell lines are cells typically derived from excess pre-implantation embryos, produced in the course of in vitro fertilization treatments, like those at RGI that are otherwise destined to be discarded. Because stem cells are derived at very early stages of development, they are undifferentiated and capable of becoming all the cell types of the human body.

Read more: Scientists Finding Problems Accessing Stem Cell Lines

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