QUT research leads to stem cell breakthrough

Thursday, 08 June, 2006

A Queensland University of Technology researcher has found a way to replace animal or human serum in the culture of human embryonic stem cells.

The breakthrough research using VitroGro technology was announced by Tissue Therapies, the Australian company developing biomedical technologies for wound healing, tissue and various cell culture applications.

The research was conducted by QUT doctoral candidate Sean Richards, under the leadership of Professor Zee Upton, one of the original inventors of the VitroGro technology platform.

Tissue Therapies chief executive officer Dr Steven Mercer said the VitroGro breakthrough was a world-first and a significant milestone in the race to use human embryonic stem cells for medical treatments.

He said the application of the VitroGro technology to stem cell sciences potentially removed one of the most significant obstacles to approved use of stem cell therapies.

"Traditional culture of human embryonic stem cells requires the presence of animal- or human-derived serum in the growth media for the embryonic stem cells to survive and grow," he said.

"Until now, there have been no practical alternatives to serum for the growth of human embryonic stem cells and this has been a major impediment to the approval of stem cell therapies for human treatment.

"The QUT research has proven that the presence of Tissue Therapies' VitroGro allows human embryonic stem cells to be grown through more than 20 generations without serum, and the cells still retain characteristics indicating that they have maintained their original potential to form a range of human tissues."

Prof Upton, from QUT's Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovations, said the research proved that human embryonic stem cells can be successfully grown and expanded using VitroGro, thereby eliminating the need for human or animal serum in the cell culture media.

"This is a unique and exciting discovery with huge implications for scientific and medical research and ultimately, therapeutic uses of human embryonic stem cells," she said.

Mercer said the discovery had significant potential to accelerate the practical application of human stem cell therapies to develop cures for a wide range of devastating diseases.

"The eradication of animal or human serum from the stem cell culture process removes one of the most serious and difficult heath regulatory objections to the use of stem cell therapies in humans," he said.

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