Skip to Content

Growth Industry

Biotech
January 1, 2002

Adult stem cells, found in the liver, bone marrow and elsewhere, are the biological workhorses that repair injuries and form new tissue. Researchers hope to use them to cure Alzheimer’s disease, say, or grow new livers; but the large numbers of cells such treatments would require can’t reasonably be harvested from human donors-and many types of adult stem cells are difficult to mass-produce in culture. MIT bioengineer James Sherley may have found a way around that difficulty, potentially overcoming a huge barrier to putting adult stem cells to medical use.

Sherley’s group has found a chemical that allows adult stem cells-at least those from rat livers-to multiply in culture indefinitely until it is removed. If Sherley’s approach pans out for human adult stem cells, researchers and doctors could finally have a way of generating enough cells to repair damaged organs and tissues. “If you can grow these things,” says Yale University stem cell biologist Diane Krause, “maybe we’ll be able to inject them and get them to work [inside the body].”

Sherley is looking to see whether the chemical or a related compound will work as well with human adult stem cells. Even limited success in these experiments could have a big medical impact, says Michael Ehrenreich, president of New York-based health-care investment firm Techvest. Just extending the technique to human liver cells, for instance, could hasten the development of external devices that use living cells to aid patients with liver failure. And Ehrenreich and stem cell researchers agree that the work holds out hope for the ability to grow all kinds of adult stem cells in the future. If they’re right, it would go a long way to helping adult stem cells make the transition from laboratory curiosity to real-world medicine.

Keep Reading

Most Popular

light and shadow on floor
light and shadow on floor

How Facebook and Google fund global misinformation

The tech giants are paying millions of dollars to the operators of clickbait pages, bankrolling the deterioration of information ecosystems around the world.

This new startup has built a record-breaking 256-qubit quantum computer

QuEra Computing, launched by physicists at Harvard and MIT, is trying a different quantum approach to tackle impossibly hard computational tasks.

wet market selling fish
wet market selling fish

This scientist now believes covid started in Wuhan’s wet market. Here’s why.

How a veteran virologist found fresh evidence to back up the theory that covid jumped from animals to humans in a notorious Chinese market—rather than emerged from a lab leak.

protein structures
protein structures

DeepMind says it will release the structure of every protein known to science

The company has already used its protein-folding AI, AlphaFold, to generate structures for the human proteome, as well as yeast, fruit flies, mice, and more.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose WongIllustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at customer-service@technologyreview.com with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.