Researchers fine tune stem cells for drug discovery

Over the past few years a number of scientists have maintained that stem cells' biggest initial commercial opportunity isn't in therapeutics. Early-stage drug discovery offers the most immediate rewards, they say. Now researchers at UC San Diego say that they have created genetically modified embryonic stem cells that more reliably contain target disease genes. And by creating human cells with the disease, the scientists say they can be much more effective than animals for studying genetic diseases.

The team used pieces of DNA that mimic the DNA in bacteria to insert the disease genes into the ESCs. And the work, which was funded by California's stem cell agency, has applications for diseases like Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and Huntington's diseases.

UCSD Professor Yang Xu says the same approach should also work in modifying induced pluripotent stem cells for research as well. And because they can use stem cells taken from people with a target disease, the IPS cells could well be even better than the modified ESCs for research programs.

- read the story from the North County Times