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Growing Placenta-Generating Cells

Researchers derive trophoblast stem cells from mouse fibroblasts, paving the way for cell therapy for placental dysfunction diseases.

Oct 14, 2015
Jef Akst

High-magnification micrograph of intermediate trophoblast cellsWIKIMEDIA, NEPHRONTransiently expressing three genes in mouse fibroblasts, an international team of researchers has coaxed the cells into trophoblast stem-like cells (TSCs), skipping a pluripotent stage. The derived cells had similar characteristics to blastocyst-derived TSCs—which form most of the developing placenta—and contributed to placental cell lineages in vitro, according to a study published last month (September 24) in Cell Stem Cell.

“Here, we describe a method to generate stable and fully functional TSC-like cells from murine fibroblasts by transient ectopic expression of three TSC key master regulators, Gata3, Eomes, and Tfap2c,” the authors wrote in their paper. “These data suggest that the conversion of fibroblasts into iTSCs represents a very high degree of nuclear reprogramming and refute the hypothesis that complete nuclear reprogramming can be achieved only in cells undergoing conversion to ESC-like cells.”

“The success of this study will grant a real chance for women who suffer from placental dysfunction diseases to have healthy babies,” according to a press release. When the placenta does not develop properly or is damaged, the baby be born prematurely, have a low birth weight, or have other complications that can risk both the child’s and mother’s health. “To date, tools to model or treat these diseases are limited because all attempts to isolate and propagate the human placenta precursor cells . . . in the dish have failed.”

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