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New Technology Breakthroughs Showcased at Annual Stem Cell Conference

The International Society for Stem Cell Research (ISSCR) is hosting its 7th annual conference this week, from July 8 – 11, which takes place this year in Barcelona, Spain.

Amidst the excitement over new developments in stem cell biology itself are the latest developments in computer, electrical and chemical engineering which are driving the laboratory technology that makes the biological research possible.

The optoelectronics company, BD Biosciences of San Diego, for example, is demonstrating two of its latest products at this year’s ISSCR conference, both of which incorporate new methods of utilizing flow cytometry for the sorting and analysis of near-pure populations of stem cells, such as those of adult origin including those derived from neurons, as well as undifferentiated stem cells such as those of human embryonic (hESCs) origin. First described in a study entitled, "Isolation of a near-pure population of hESC-derived neurons using CD markers and fluorescence activated cell sorting", the new flow cytometry screening technique assesses 192 antibodies to surface cell markers in order to identify a "signature" that distinguishes between the various types of stem cells.

As Dr. Christian Carson of BD Biosciences explains, "Our study results help address a key challenge in the development of assays that will benefit from consistent, defined neural cell types. In addition, these findings have implications beyond neural stem cells. They provide a framework of how to use flow cytometry analysis screens and sorting methods to quickly identify and isolate a variety of stem cells and their derivatives." After cell sorting has been completed, the second method applies p160-Rho-associated coiled kinase (ROCK) inhibitor to enhance cell survival in various growth conditions, both those which do and those which do not involve feeder cells.

Although flow cytometry is commonly used for the isolation and sorting of subpopulations of embryonic and other types of stem cells via various surface markers, the high sensitivity of hESCs has yielded poor survival of the cells following their exposure to the process. By utilizing the ROCK inhibitor at the completion of the cell sorting, however, the researchers found that cell recovery is improved while normal morphology and stable karyotype are also maintained.

According to Jay Glasscock, president of Cell Analysis at BD Biosciences, "Stem cell research is an increasingly complex and exhilarating area of science where researchers are looking to find answers to some of the most difficult-to-treat medical conditions. BD Biosciences is committed to working with the stem cell research community to help develop state-of-the-art tools that support and further enhance experiment capabilities."

Similarly, Thermo Fisher Scientific of Waltham, Massachusetts was also spotlighted in a symposium at the conference entitled, "New Tools and Technologies to Accelerate Stem Cell Research". Featured among the studies that utilize newly developed research tools were such topics as the efficient production of iPS cells, the use of stem cell progenitors to accelerate toxicology screening, the latest developmenets in siRNA (small interfering RNA) technology including more efficient transfection methods that facilitate the study of gene function in neural stem cells, a non-enzymatic subculture of stem cells, proteomic technologies and image analysis techniques applied to stem cell differentiation, the identification and qualitative analysis of genes and proteins involved in stem cell growth and differentiation, and new developments in tissue engineering.

BD Biosciences is one of three business segments within BD (Becton, Dickinson and Company) which provides integrated products and services for genomics, proteomics, oncology, immunology, and general drug discovery and development. With global offices throughout the U.S., Canada, Europe, Asia, Japan and Latin America, BD Biosciences has approximately 3,000 employees. In 2008 Thermo Fisher Scientific had revenues of $10.5 billion with more than 34,000 employees and over 350,000 customers. Both companies are traded on the NYSE.

Founded in 2002, the ISSCR is an independent, nonprofit organization, the purpose of which is "to foster the exchange of information on stem cell research", as described on their website.

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