Oldershaw, R. A., Baxter, M. A., Lowe, E. T., Bates, N., Grady, L. M., Soncin, F., Brison, D. R., Hardingham, T. E. and Kimber, S. J. Directed differentiation of human embryonic stem cells toward chondrocytes. Nat Biotechnol. 28, 1187-1194.pubmed - *PRESS RELEASE*

Copyright © Wellcome trust centre for Cell-Matrix ResearchStem cells are a special group of cells that can regenerate themselves and, importantly, give rise to more specialized daughter cells to perform various distinct functions. The process of organ formation and, indeed, embryonic development is one whereby a stem cell, the zygote, becomes progressively different and gives rise to hundreds of different cell types to form a multicellular organism. Because of its tremendous medical potentials, for example in tissue engineering and regenerative medicine, research in stem cell biology has garnered much momentum in recent years.

A major challenge in stem cell biology is how to direct stem cells to become a specific cell or tissue type on demand in order for it to be clinically useful in the field of regenerative medicine. At present, for example, effective strategies to direct embryonic stem cells to form a functional heart or lung for transplant surgery are still lacking. It is against this backdrop that Dr. Su Kimber’s research group has developed a protocol by which human embryonic stem cells can be programmed to form cartilage cells. Using a well defined media and a cartilage-specific extracellular matrix, Oldershaw et al turned human embryonic stem cells into cartilage cells at a high efficiency.

This research takes an important step toward growing functional cartilage in a culture plate and thus has enormous potentials in treating arthritis and cartilage reconstruction in sports medicine. In addition, the well defined conditions whereby cartilage cells are regenerated should allow a better understanding of the molecular underpinnings of cartilage programming, which should shed important new light on how to make other medically important cell or organ types and advance the field of regenerative medicine overall.

For more detailed information, please refer to the original article ‘The directed differentiation of human embryonic stem cells towards chondrocytes’.