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Harnessing the Stem Cell Potential: The path to prevent mitochondrial disease

Although stem cells were initially thought to be the magic bullet for numerous diseases, translation of a stem cell–based cure into the clinic is still a work in progress. Basic research is shedding light into the potential of stem cells, and different research fronts are now exploring how to exploit this potential to tackle diverse conditions. In 'Bench to Bedside', Akemi Tanaka, Mark Sauer, Dieter Egli and Daniel Kort discuss how genome transfer from eggs of mothers with mutated mitochondria into an enucleated egg from a healthy female donor at an early developmental stage can eliminate mitochondrial disease. The negligible mutant mitochondrial DNA carryover and the differentiation of subsequent embryonic stem cells into various cell types with healthy mitochondrial DNA content suggest this could be used to prevent transmission of mitochondrial disease to the offspring. The authors discuss safety concerns and remaining technical questions that need to be resolved to make way for this new technology in the clinic. In 'Bedside to Bench', Nan Yang and Marius Wernig peruse a small study of children with a myelin disorder showing that transplantation of human neural stem cells leads to engraftment and donor cell–derived myelination.

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Figure 1: Mitochondrial replacement to eliminate mutant mtDNA.

Katie Vicari

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Correspondence to Dieter Egli.

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Tanaka, A., Sauer, M., Egli, D. et al. Harnessing the Stem Cell Potential: The path to prevent mitochondrial disease. Nat Med 19, 1578–1579 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1038/nm.3422

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