Scientists at MStem Cell derive and grow human embryonic stem cells in a slow, meticulous process that takes months for each kind of cell. Then cells are frozen, stored in the MStem Cell laboratory on the University of Michigan medical school campus and made available for use by researchers worldwide.
For each type, or line, of cells, Dr. Gary Smith and his colleagues start with one very early-stage embryo that has been donated by a family that has experienced infertility treatment.
Most of these donated embryos are special because they have been tested, and found to contain genetic defects that cause a specific disease. The family opts not to implant the embryos, but also recognizes that these embryos may hold keys for unlocking information about diseases that affect their friends and loved ones.
To researchers who study inherited diseases, these embryos are incredibly valuable. And we’re starting to see benefits in terms of scientific discoveries being made.
Additionally, “normal” stem cell lines, which allow researchers to study any aspect of cell development, are created at MStem Cell and submitted to the national registry.
Each line takes six months or more to derive and grow to a sufficient number of cells. Cells need to be observed and fed every day; that means MStem Cell researchers are in the lab on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays — 365 days a year.
MStem Cell announced its first stem cell line in October 2010, and in 2011 announced the creation of the first line that contains a disease-specific genetic defect. Following acceptance to the national registry, MStem Cell’s first line became available to investigators worldwide in early 2012.