The magic of stem cells is that, in addition to regenerating themselves, they can also generate the specialized operational cells that make up our body. Researchers are learning that there are many types of stem cells, with different functions, and representing different sources of development. Stem cells that are pluripotent, meaning that they are able to differentiate into any of the specialized cells of the body, are of the most interest, since the potential for their application is so broad. As a result, scientists have tended to focus on ES (Embryonic Stem Cells) and iPS (Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells), two sources of pluripotent stem cells.
ES Cells are not derived from eggs fertilized in a woman's body. Rather they are derived from excess fertilized eggs produced during clinical in vitro fertilization procedures. Excess fertilized eggs can be donated for research, cultured in vitro, and isolated when the embryo is approximately 100 cells in size, which is well before any organs, tissues, or nerves have developed. ES cells have the best documented potential to differentiate into any of the over 200 cell types in the human body. The differentiation process involves a number of steps that gradually commit the ES Cell to becoming a certain type of mature cell and tissue.
Today, thanks to major developments in stem cell technology, it is possible to obtain pluripotent stem cells from individuals without the use of embryos. Induced pluripotent stem cells, iPS Cells, are adult cells, typically skin or fat cells, that have been genetically reprogrammed to behave like ES Cells. ES and iPS Cells may not be identical in every way, and research continues, but iPS Cells are now an accepted source, and can play a critical role in stem cell research and application.
VistaGen has developed a versatile stem cell technology platform based on the controlled differentiation of human pluripotent stem cells into mature, non-transformed, human cells which can be used to create novel bioassay systems for predictive toxicology, drug metabolism screening, drug discovery, drug rescue, and cell therapy. The company believes that iPS Cell technologies may allow the rapid and efficient generation of pluripotent stem cells from individuals with the desired specific genetic variation. These stem cells may then be used to develop stem cell-based bioassays, for both efficacy and toxicity screening, which reflect the effects of these genetic variations, as well as for cell therapy applications.
VistaGen's goal is to use their proprietary drug testing technology to economically develop their own portfolio of "rescued" drugs from drug candidates that had been shelved earlier by pharmaceutical companies due to heart or liver toxicity issues.
For additional information, visit the company's website at VistaGen.com
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