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21st Century Medicine (Scientific American Special Online by Scientific American

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In the meantime, the extraordinary regenerative potential of embryonic stem cells has intensified the search for similar cells that may be involved in normal healing in the adult body. Hidden Potential? skin begins repairing itself immediately after being injured. The human liver can regenerate up to 50 percent of its mass within weeks, just as a salamander regrows a severed tail. Our red blood cells are replaced at a rate of 350 million per minute. We know that prolific stem cells must be at work in such rapidly regenerating tissues.

ES cells’ pluripotency, however, makes this far too dangerous an approach for human therapy. The cells might form a teratoma or could differentiate into an undesirable tissue type, or both. In animal experiments, teratomas containing fully formed teeth have been reported. Rather than risk creating a tumor or a tooth in a patient’s brain or heart with direct ES cell injections or struggling to produce specific functional tissues, many ES cell researchers are now striving for a middle ground. By coaxing ES cells into a more stable, yet still flexible, progenitorcell stage before administering them, we COPYRIGHT 2006 SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN, INC.

It requires synthesizing short single strands of DNA in every possible combination of base sequences and then arranging them on a large slide. When copies of the template strand whose sequence is unknown are washed across this array, they will bind to their complementary sequences. The best match produces the brightest fluorescent signal. Illumina also adds a base-extension step to this test of hybridization specificity. One final technique with great long-term promise takes an entirely different approach to identifying the individual bases 42 GEORGE M.

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