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Stem Cell Biology GE4276

Lecture 1: Introduction to stem cells pdf_button

In our opening lecture, I will present a brief introduction to stem cell biology. This lecture will explain the two key characteristics of all stem cells, namely their ability to self-renew and their potential, or “potency”, to develop (“differentiate”) into other cell types. In this video, Irving Weissman explains the differences betwen embryonic and adult stem cells: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z-2SxOP8Up0


Lecture 2: Embryonic stem cells I pdf_button

This lecture will present an historical perspective of embryonic stem (ES) cell research, including the landmark establishment of mouse ES (1981) and human ES (1998) cell lines. We will also discuss the latest research on both the intrinsic and extrinsic factors which regulate the ability of ES to self-renew indefinitely without loss of pluripotency. This video shows how ES cell lines are derived: http://www.youtube.com/StemCellChannel#p/a/f/0/I-YT2Ey90F4


Lecture 3: Embryonic stem cells II pdf_button

This lecture will continue our discussion of embryonic stem cells. I will present an historical perspective of the somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT) technique, which is an approach for creating a clonal embryo using an ovum with a donor nucleus. This method has the potential to contribute to embryonic stem cell research, or, potentially, regenerative medicine where it is sometimes referred to as "therapeutic cloning." It also has the potential to be used as the first step in the process of reproductive cloning. Importantly, we will also discuss the technical and ethical issues.


Lecture 4: Adult or “tissue specific” stem cells pdf_button

This lecture will introduce the various types of tissue specific stem cells e.g. neural stem cells, hematopoietic (blood) stem cells and mesenchymal stem cells. In particular we will focus on the seminal research done on the hematopoietic lineage, which have formed the basis for much of our understanding of the biology of human tissue specific stem cells. We will describe the challenges of propagating tissue specific stem cells in the lab and directing them in a controlled manner to become various differentiated cell types.


Lecture 5: Applications of stem cells in medicine pdf_button

After five weeks learning about the various types of stem cells and how they work, now it’s time to learn about their current and potential uses in medicine! Today we will discuss four real examples of modern day “stem cell therapies” which all use tissue specific stem cells. This is an exciting and rapidly developing field, not without its controversies (see video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZjYfQUm1_6g). We will also discuss the potential and challenges at the heart of future efforts to use human embryonic stem cells in medicine.


Lecture 6: Induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS)pdf_button

In the previous weeks we discussed the technical and ethical challenges of using patient specific embryonic stem cells generated by the SCNT method. Today we will introduce the major breakthrough which promises to negate the use of embryonic stem cells in future regenerative medicine treatments. Scientists can now generate embryonic stem cell-like cells from most adult cells. These “induced pluripotent stem cells” (iPS) offer enormous potential for future patient specific regenerative medicine treatments (check out: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iTIhv4l7qPs). In the words of Shinya Yamanaka, the scientist who discovered iPS in 2006, “We can now make heart cells from skin cells”.


Lecture 7: The science of stem cells pdf_button

Today we will introduce the stem cell hypothesis of aging. We will explore the genes and molecular mechanisms which control tissue specific stem cell lifespan and discuss the significance of this to human aging and cancer. We will discuss the various differences between embryonic and tissue specific stem cells. They differ in their potency, cell cycle duration and life-span. Finally we will also introduce the concept of the "stem cell niche".


Lecture 8: Cancer stem cellspdf_button

Today we visit the dark side of stem cells, the, so-called “cancer stem cells”. Until recently, cancer was considered to be a collection of alike cells. However, most scientists now view cancer as being an heterogeneous mix of multiple cell types analogous to how an organ such as a lung has multiple different cell types. So, just like the lung stem cell has the potential to generate a lung, the cancer stem cell has the potential to (re)-generate a tumour. We will describe the seminal research findings, which support the existence of these cancer stem cells in human tumours. We finish up by outlining how our improving understanding of stem cell biology has the potential to contribute to future therapies directed at cancer stem cells.

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