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A simplified stem cell culture system with clear chemical composition

Researchers have developed a simplified, chemically specific culture system that could be used to cultivate human pluripotent stem cells, the researchers report online today in the journal Nature Methodology. The new approach is important both for standardizing reported results from different laboratories and, ultimately, for clinical use of these cells.

Pluripotent stem cells are partly science, partly art, due to the fact that they are highly sensitive to their culture: if not properly treated, they can either die or lose their "stem cell" qualities. Much of the work of scientists in the past has been to try to define the relevant components of the mixed culture that allows stem cells to grow.

James Thomson and colleagues reported a systematic dissection of a stem-cell culture medium, defining its basic components. In a painstaking effort, they picked out eight key ingredients in liquid culture and chemically defined them. They also defined the components of the surface coating, pointing out that they allowed the culture medium to produce human embryonic stem cells efficiently over long periods of time, as well as human induced pluripotent stem cells from fresh tissue slices.
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