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Genomics tools aid discovery in stem cell research

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Using a variety of Agilent Technologies’ genomics tools, researchers at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke National Institutes of Health and the University of Oxford have solved some of the perplexing differences between embryonic stem (ES) cells of humans and mice, according to a paper published in the current issue of Nature (Vol. 448 No. 7150).

The paper describes how the team, led by Ron McKay, derived a new type of stem cell from mouse embryos that have been implanted in the uterus. These epiblast stem cells are made from the epiblast, the part of the embryo that gives rise to all adult tissues, and can grow into any type of tissue. Epiblast stem cells are described as being distinct from classic mouse ES cells and share many key features of human ES cells.

The Nature Editor’s summary reads: 'This should provide an important experimental model to accelerate the use of human ES cells in research and eventually, perhaps, in therapy.'

The researchers used Agilent microarrays to analyse differences and similarities between mouse and human stem cells and mouse epiblast stem cells. The applications included gene expression, comparative genomic hybridisation (CGH) and chromatin immunoprecipitation on a chip. Agilent’s online microarray design tool, eArray, and a variety of Agilent informatics software also played roles in the investigation.

‘The concept of systems biology has been around for some time, but we’re excited to see integrative analysis producing results using multiple applications from our Genomics portfolio,’ said Jay Kaufman, Agilent marketing director, Genomics. ‘We recognise that the trend among scientists is to examine biological processes from multiple perspectives, and we continue to add applications accordingly.’