U.S. scientists say they've conducted the first human tests of a new technique that may eventually eliminate the need to find matching donors for patients who need bone marrow transplants.
The team at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle found a way to manipulate a signaling pathway in order to greatly multiply the number of umbilical cord stem cells available for transplant, BBC News reported.
The technique proved successful in initial animal studies and subsequent tests in human patients. The study appears in the journal Nature Medicine.
"The holy grail is to have an 'off the peg' source of unlimited numbers of 'neutral' stem cells which can be given to any patient safe in the knowledge that they will not cause the very difficult 'graft versus host' problems that lead to rejection and often the death of the patient," Dr David Grant, scientific director of the charity Leukemia Research in Great Britain, told BBC News.
"This is a promising development towards this because the concern has been that once stem cells start 'growing,' they lose their stem cell properties and progress to ordinary blood cells with a very limited lifespan.," Grant added.