Human fat is one of the most practical sources of stem cells. But coaxing these precursors to become cartilage – the flexible connective tissue between our joints and elsewhere – has so far proven difficult. Now researchers have managed to do it by mimicking a process that occurs naturally in the body. By exposing stem cells in a dish to a protein called factor-β, the scientists induced them to undergo condensation, a DNA-compacting process that defines growth and differentiation of cells, as they do in the body before starting to make cartilage. Pictured is a section of the lab-grown tissue with its swirling blue-stained proteoglycan – a key component of cartilage – and bone substrate (the long pale pink projections). The ability to create functioning cartilage could have tremendous clinical advantages, accelerating the development of new treatments for cartilage repair.
Written by Matthew Morgan
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