December 24, 2008

Scientists derive stem cells from rats

Authentic embryonic stem cells have been derived from rats for the first time, say researchers at the University of Southern California.

The breakthrough will enable researchers to create more effective animal models to study a range of diseases in humans, says Qi-Long Ying, the study's principal investigator.

This is a major development in stem cell research because we know that rats are much more closely related to humans than mice in many aspects of biology, he said, noting the direction of many international research labs will change because of the availability of rat stem cells.

The discovery brings scientists closer to developing knockout rats which are genetically modified to lack one or more genes. By observing what happens when specific genes are removed, scientists can identify the function of the gene and how it links to a specific disease, the study said.