Investigation of the factors secreted by feeders used in the maintenance of human embryonic stem cells

Embryonic stem cells can continually replicate themselves and also have the capacity to differentiate into other types of cells. Consequently, stem cells have the potential to replace damaged tissues in our bodies, which could revolutionize the treatment of degenerative diseases and traumatic injuries. Currently the production of human embryonic stem cells in the lab setting requires use of “feeder cells” from mice in order for the stem cells to grow. Having to depend on feeder cells limits large-scale production and also could introduce unacceptable risks in clinical applications. Dr. Nicolas Caron is investigating which proteins from feeder cells nourish stem cell growth. His goal is to develop a feeder-free culture that would be equally effective for growing stem cells. This research could lead to the development of cell-based therapies for genetic diseases, and support research into ways of shifting from organ, to cell-based transplants.