Hello,

We noticed you're browsing in private or incognito mode.

To continue reading this article, please exit incognito mode or log in.

Not an Insider? Subscribe now for unlimited access to online articles.

Rewriting Life

Growth Industry

Biotech

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.

Become an MIT Technology Review Insider for in-depth analysis and unparalleled perspective.

Subscribe today

Uh oh–you've read all of your free articles for this month.

Insider Premium
$179.95/yr US PRICE

More from Rewriting Life

Reprogramming our bodies to make us healthier.

Want more award-winning journalism? Subscribe to Insider Premium.
  • Insider Premium {! insider.prices.premium !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Our award winning magazine, unlimited access to our story archive, special discounts to MIT Technology Review Events, and exclusive content.

    See details+

    What's Included

    Bimonthly magazine delivery and unlimited 24/7 access to MIT Technology Review’s website

    The Download: our daily newsletter of what's important in technology and innovation

    Access to the magazine PDF archive—thousands of articles going back to 1899 at your fingertips

    Special discounts to select partner offerings

    Discount to MIT Technology Review events

    Ad-free web experience

    First Look: exclusive early access to important stories, before they’re available to anyone else

    Insider Conversations: listen in on in-depth calls between our editors and today’s thought leaders

/
You've read all of your free articles this month. This is your last free article this month. You've read of free articles this month. or  for unlimited online access.