The research, which was carried out by scientists at the Shanghai Institute of Biochemistry and Cell Biology, the Chinese Academy of Sciences - German Max Planck Society Partner Institute for Computational Biology and the Guangzhou Institutes of Biomedicine and Health, may play a role in developing breakthroughs in stem cell-related regenerative medicine.
"We revealed the fine developmental trajectory of progenitor cells that have not been observed by a traditional approach," Jing Naihe, one of the lead researchers on the team at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, said in a Monday press release.
According to the Boston Children's Hospital, progenitor cells, not to be confused with adult stem cells, are defined as “early descendents of stem cells that can differentiate to form one or more kinds of cells, but cannot divide and reproduce indefinitely.” Progenitor cells are therefore more limited than stem cells in the types of cells they can form, but still have potential applications in medicine.
"The findings may help scientists develop new methods to obtain stem cells for the liver, pancreas and spinal cord, and contribute to related disease research and stem cell-related regenerative medicine," Jing added.
Stem cells can not only help scientists understand why diseases occur, but they can also be used to grow cells and tissues, which researchers believe could treat many conditions, such as Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease, spinal cord injuries, heart disease, diabetes and arthritis. Several clinical trials have shown promising applications of stem cells, according to Research America. In addition, several studies have shown how transplantation of stem cells can regenerate heart tissue following heart attacks or open heart surgery.