Singapore scientists have found a more efficient way to derive stem cells that can grow into organs such as the liver or pancreas.
Previously, it was hard to obtain stem cells that can develop into organs.
The Singapore team came up with a way to obtain such cells by screening for proteins and chemicals that promote the formation of a single, desired cell type, while blocking unwanted ones.
By doing so, they discovered triggers that could drive stem cells towards pure populations of precursor cells - or those that lead to the development of organs.
The ability to generate such cells is an important step in using stem cells in clinical applications, like trials involving the use of human liver cells to test drugs.
The discovery was led by Dr Bing Lim, senior group leader and associate director of Cancer Stem Cell Biology at A*Star's Genome Institute of Singapore, post-doctoral fellow Lay Teng Ang and Stanford University School of Medicine graduate student Kyle Loh.
GIS executive director Ng Huck Hui said: "This is a beautiful piece of work to delineate the early events in cell fate decision."