Stem cells derived from embryos can differentiate into many other somatic cell types, but it had been thought that adult stem cells are not as versatile. In 23 June Advanced Online Nature, Yuehua Jiang and colleagues at University of Minnesota School of Medicine, Minneapolis, US show that a population of cells they denote multipotent adult progenitor cells (MAPCs) are capable of developing into most, if not all, somatic cell types (Nature 2002, DOI:10/1038/nature00870).

Jiang et al. isolated MAPCs from murine bone marrow and cultured them in vitro in the presence of specific cytokines. They observed that the cells were capable of differentiating into cells having morphological, phenotypic and functional characteristics of mesoderm, neurectoderm and endoderm.

In addition they injected 10–12 MAPCs into 3½-day-old blastocysts, implanted these in foster mothers and allowed them to develop and be born. Four weeks after birth the animals were examined for...

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