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A new discovery in regenerative medicine
By applying cutting-edge experimental and computational tools to basic science, researchers in Australia and Singapore have discovered a technique that could enable future cell therapies for placenta complications during pregnancy.

Researchers from the Duke-NUS Medical School and Monash University have made an unexpected discovery about stem cells that could lead to new treatments for placenta complications during pregnancy.

The international team, led by ARC Future Fellow Professor Jose Polo from Monash University’s Biomedicine Discovery Institute, along with Duke-NUS’s Assistant Professor Owen Rackham, discovered a new way to create induced trophoblast stem cells (iTSCs).

This exciting discovery was made while the collaborators were studying the molecular changes that adult skin cells underwent to form induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs), a process that is not well understood.

iPSCs reprogrammed adult skin or blood cells that have been changed into embryonic-like stem cells, which can be used to develop almost any type of tissue from human organs. They have opened the possibilities of personalised cell therapies and new opportunities for regenerative medicine, safe drug testing, and toxicity assessments. However, as Professor Polo stated, “iPSCs cannot give rise to placenta, thus all the advances in disease modelling and cell therapy that iPSCs have brought about did not translate to the placenta.”

iTSCs, on the other hand, can be used to make placenta cells, enabling further research into new treatments for placenta complications and the measurement of drug toxicity to placental cells, which has important implications during pregnancy.

“This discovery will provide the capacity to model human placenta in vitro and enable a pathway to future cell therapies,” said Dr John Ouyang, one of the first authors of the study.

Professors Polo and Rackham said many other groups from Australian and international universities contributed to the study over the years, making it a truly international endeavour.


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