Embryonic Stem Cells have been dubbed the "Holy Grail of Regenerative Medicine" because of their ability to give rise new tissue in every part of the body — from the liver to the heart to the bones and the brain. And scientists around the world are working to harness these incredibly potent and malleable cells to cure a wide variety of diseases -- ranging from growing whole new organs to replacing damaged brain cells.
In a paper published online Wednesday in the journal Nature, researchers at McMaster University say they have discovered that "stem cells have a far more complex relationship with the cells around them — and that knowledge could open up entirely new avenues of research....
Previous studies in mice have shown that various types of stem cells hole up in little nests of cells known as niches, and these niches are located in specific spots within various tissues..."
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[Editor's note, added July 17, 2007: In an exclusive interview with The UK Times, Japan’s leading genetics researcher, Shinya Yamanaka, claims it will could be only “a matter of months” from reaching the Holy Grail of biotechnology – producing an “ethical” human stem cell without using a human embryo, he has said. For the full article, click here.]