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Distinct methylation in stem cell DNA

Findings may help explain why embryonic stem cells can self-renew and are pluripotent

Charles Choi
The DNA of human embryonic stem cells contains patterns of methylation that are distinct from those in other cells, scientists report in the September Genome Research. These findings may shed light on what mechanisms give embryonic stem cells their unique ability to self-renewal and become different cell types.The researchers also found that methylation patterns in embryonic stem cells differed significantly from those seen in cancer cells, suggesting that some similarities between the two types of cells might simply be "coincidental," said coauthor David Barker, vice president and Chief Scientific Officer at Illumina in San Diego, which develops tools to analyze genetic data (including the microarrays used in this study). This finding may help alleviate concerns that embryonic stem cells are prone to forming tumors, the authors note. "Despite the fact that embryonic stem cells can keep growing forever like cancer cells, our findings show they are definitely not...

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