Study Finds Stem Cells In Deer Antler

Deer antlers are reported to contain multipotent stem cells that may have applications in veterinary tissue regenerative therapies.

AsianScientist (Mar. 25, 2013) – South Korean scientists have reported that deer antlers, known for their unique ability to regenerate, contain multipotent stem cells that may have applications in veterinary tissue regenerative therapies.

Deer antlers, which are lost and then re-grown completely on a yearly basis, have long been of interest in the field of stem cell biology. Their ability to regenerate is a rare phenomenon in mammals, and suggests the presence of a stem cell population that can differentiate into more specialized cell types.

In the study, published online in the journal Cell Transplantation, the researchers isolated stem cells from deer antler biopsies, and developed methods to successfully culture them in the laboratory.

The isolated cells displayed a number of characteristic and distinctive stem cell protein markers on their surfaces. When the researchers subjected them to specialized culture conditions, they differentiated into bone, fat and cartilage cell lineages – a hallmark of multipotent stem cells.

“We successfully isolated and characterized antler tissue-derived multipotent stem cells and confirmed that the isolated cells are self-renewing and can differentiate into multiple lineages,” said Dr. Kyung-Sun Kang of the College of Veterinary Medicine at Seoul National University, a co-author of the study. “Using optimized culture conditions, deer antler displayed vigorous cell proliferation.”

Although deer antler sprays, which are said to contain the insulin-like growth factor IGF-1, recently made headlines for their alleged use by professional athletes to hasten injury recovery, this study did not investigate the potential of deer antlers for use in human therapies.

Instead, the authors are interested in using deer antler-derived stem cells to develop veterinary regenerative therapies, such as treatments for injuries sustained by wild animals.

“Deer-vehicle collision is frequent, inducing bone fracture,” they wrote. “Antler multipotent stem cells could be used for therapeutic application for wild animal treatments and tissue engineering.”

One challenge faced by the researchers was the lack of deer-specific antibodies with which to characterize the stem cell population. They noted that the development of these tools would be essential to confirm the identification of antler multipotent stem cells.

“This study highlights a novel source of stem cells for use in veterinary reparative therapies for wild animals,” said Dr. Alison Willing, a professor at the University of South Florida’s Center of Excellence for Aging and Brain Repair. “Future studies of these cells will allow their full potential as a therapy to be discerned.”

The article can be found at: Seo et al. (2013) Isolation and characterization of antler derived multipotent stem cells.


Source: Cell Transplantation Center of Excellence for Aging and Brain Repair; Photo: johncudw2399/Flickr/CC.
Disclaimer: This article does not necessarily reflect the views of AsianScientist or its staff.

Shuzhen received a PhD degree from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, USA, where she studied the immune response of mosquito vectors to dengue virus.

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