Human embryonic stem cells which have the potential to turn into any cell in the human body have been shown to have huge benefit over recent decades in everything from restoring eyesight, to treating multiple sclerosis.
‘Normal’ human cells are diploid, which means that they contain chromosomes from both parents – these don’t have the ability to divide into more cells.
Many attempts have been made to create haploid human embryonic stem cells – just containing the chromosomes from one parent – but until now this had only been successful in non-human animals such as mice, rats and monkeys.
However, this goal appear to have been reached by a research team at the Center for Stem Cells and Genetic Research at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. The team, lead by Ido Sagi achieved the first successful isolation and maintenance of haploid embryonic stem cells in humans. These cells were able to differentiate into many other cell types such as heart, brain and pancreas whilst retaining a single set of chromosomes.
This breakthrough is set to have huge implications on stem cell research and understanding of human development.
It will also make genetic screening easier and more precise, as well as giving scientists a further insight into the mechanisms of human sexual reproduction. It will also allow further research into resistance to chemotherapy, which could have huge future benefits within the use of personalised cancer therapy.
As a result of the breakthrough, the university created a company called NewStem, which is developing a diagnostic kit for predicting resistance to chemotherapy treatments.
The team hopes that by collecting a wide spectrum of human pluripotent stem cells with different genetic makeups, NewStem will be able to develop diagnostic kits for personalised treatments.