BRITISH scientists have created the first stem cells that can become any part of the body, providing hope for preventing miscarriages.
Stem cells are currently capable of becoming all cells except the placenta and membranes around a baby.
It means vital research cannot be done on some of the faults that cause around one in four pregnant women to miscarry.
But now, for the first time, scientists have created a type of stem cell which can grow into all body parts. These stem cells are just two days old a blank slate' compared with existing stem cells from embryos or skin cells.
They could also be used to develop drugs for pre-eclampsia and genetic disorders such as heart disease. The stem cells have been created successfully in mice but scientists at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in Cambridgeshire say they are working on a human equivalent.
This new method of producing stem cells could be enormously helpful for studying development, more efficiently generating functional human cells, and researching treatments for pregnancy problems such as pre-eclampsia and miscarriages,' said co-author Dr Jian Yang.
The problem with stem cells had been that they would turn into body parts too early through programming'.
The research team got round this by taking stem cells from a fertilised egg at two days old, before programming had begun, when there are only four to eight cells.
Usually stem cells would come from early embryos up to four days old, when 100 cells have divided. Scientists may soon be able to grow cells from the placenta in the lab, tweaking their genes to establish if they can fix faults in the organ that causes miscarriage.
Hiro Nakauchi, co-author and a Stanford University professor, said: The research has great implications for human regenerative medicine as stem cells with improved development potential open up new opportunities.' To create the early-stage stem cells, the researchers used a chemical soup' to block a molecule which starts programming them to become parts of the body.
Daniel Brison, a biology professor at the University of Manchester, said: This work has implications for our understanding of the establishment of early pregnancy and programming of growth and long-term health.'
© Daily Mail