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Published by Communications and Public Affairs 519 824-4120, Ext. 56982 or 53338

News Release

March 31, 2006

U of G Research May Offer New Advances in Tissue Therapy

A scientist at the University of Guelph has made egg-like cells from skin stem cells taken from fetal pigs, an achievement that may offer a new route to tissue therapy for treating a variety of diseases.

This is the first time a researcher working in vitro has been able to turn somatic stem cells into germ cells. Prof. Julang Li, Animal and Poultry Science, describes her results in a paper published this week in Nature Cell Biology.

"We are certainly quite excited about it," said Li. " It’s a little surprising that a germ cell can come from skin. It’s another model for studying germ cell development. "

Li’s lab isolated stem cells from the skin of pig fetuses and developed them in a special growth medium into oocyte-like cells, some of which developed spontaneously into embryo-like structures. These cells expressed protein markers suggesting they were germ cells rather than somatic cells.

Being able to make egg-like cells from somatic skin cells may offer new avenues for tissue therapy for treating afflictions from Alzheimer’s to Parkinson’s disease. Li said her work may offer a new way to make eggs and embryos that may avoid ethical concerns about the use of embryonic tissue in therapeutic cloning.

For media questions, contact Communications and Public Affairs: Lori Bona Hunt, (519) 824-4120, Ext. 53338, or Rebecca Kendall, Ext. 56982.

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