New Front in Stem Cell Research

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FSU researcher Dr. Teng Ma is well-known for his research with adult stem cells.

"You always face a technical difficulty in stem cell research. You start with a limited population, whereas your goal requires a whole lot more cells, even a big chunk of tissue," says Ma.

Ma says only 500,000 stem cells can be taken from an adult at one time and that they decrease as a person ages. That's why he and a team of researchers are using a perfusion bioreactor device to replicate stem cells and mimic their behavior in the human body.

"The bio-reactor system plays an important job. It can provide a dynamic for cell expansion, and the cell can expand faster than those cells in a normal incubator," says researcher Feng Jheo.

In large enough quantities, adult stem cells can be used to restore the muscle function of various organs in the body and could even help fight certain diseases.

"It's just going to help to try to generate artificial tissue, artificial organs," says researcher Johnnal Stroud.

"For the cartilage that is damaged in athletes and elderly patients, for example, it is very difficult to rely on your body to reproduce that piece of tissue," adds Ma, who says inside the bio-reactor, stem cells can live for up to 40 days, providing plenty of opportunity for research.

Dr. Ma has received close to $1 million in grant funding and two U.S. patents relating to the perfusion bioreactor.