Geron Grows Stem Cells Without Mice Feeder Cells

Biotechnology company Geron Corp. announced the publication on Monday of research demonstrating a way to grow human embryonic stem cells without using feeder cells from mice.

Geron, based in Menlo Park, California, said it has filed worldwide patent applications covering the technology. The company's shares were up $1.76, or more than 18 percent, at $11.36 on Nasdaq.

To date, all human cell lines have been developed using a layer of so-called feeder cells from mice that supply components necessary to sustain the human stem cells. This has raised concerns that any treatments eventually derived using stem cell lines now in existence would be tainted by regulatory restrictions on the use of animal tissue.

Stem cells retain the ability to develop into various kinds of tissues, unlike other more developed cells, which can only serve one function once they develop. Companies like Geron hope to eventually clone stem cells that can develop into organs and tissues that could cure diseases like diabetes and Alzheimer's.

In early August, U.S. president George Bush announced for the first time approval for government funding of research using stem cells. But several conditions were put in place, including a restriction that public money be spent only on research using the 64 stem cells lines already in existence -- a restriction that precludes federal funding on stem cell lines that have yet to be created.

Geron said results from its research into the culture of human embryonic stem cells in the absence of direct feeder cell support were published on Monday in the journal Nature Biotechnology.

"The finding greatly facilitates the development of scalable manufacturing processes to enable commercialization of hES (human embryonic stem) cell-based products,"the company said in a statement.

Source: Geron