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VistaGen Therapeutics (VSTA) Taps Stem Cell Potential

|Includes: VistaGen Therapeutics, Inc. (VTGN)

When it comes to modern medicine, stem cells are seen as playing an increasingly important role, a role unmatched by anything else. Pluripotent stem cells, including induced pluripotent stem cells (adult cells that have been genetically reprogrammed to an embryonic stem cell-like state), are unique in their ability to differentiate into specialized cells, such as heart or muscle or nerve cells. As a result, they provide an important tool for medical research, treatment and drug development.

For example, pluripotent stem cells can play a substantial role in the discovery of creative new medicines that are more effective and safer for patients. They can also be used in the field of regenerative medicine, where various tissues and organs can be generated to replace damaged ones. In addition, given their ability to duplicate the functions of a whole host of other cells, stem cells are becoming important in all types of advanced biomedical research, and they are helping us understand the most basic workings of the human cell and human body.

In the case of VistaGen Therapeutics, stem cells are being used to help researchers and developers better predict, at the earliest stages of drug development, the effects of a drug candidate on human tissues, organs, and processes. Too often pharmaceutical companies spend huge amounts of money developing and marketing new drugs, only to find late in the game that the drug must be limited or completely withdrawn due to unforeseen adverse health effects, often relating to the heart. Since heart toxicity has been a factor in nearly a third of such drug withdrawals, VistaGen's use of stem cell technology to produce a novel bioassay system with mature, functional human heart cells that can be used for early and accurate testing of such effects represents a major accomplishment in the field. VistaGen is also developing a novel bioassay system to rescue new drug candidates limited by liver toxicity, another major factor in drug withdrawals.

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