DiscussionIn an aging population, bone related diseases are becoming an increasing health issue. It has been shown that cells derived from adult bone marrow, called skeletal stem-cells (SSCs), exhibit exquisite multipotentiality to form fat, cartilage and bone tissue. This means that SSCs may be used in the treatment of bone diseases and are therefore of significant therapeutic potential for regenerating damaged tissues. The clinical potential of SSCs is currently hampered by the inability to discriminate, and thereby separate, therapeutically active, multipotential SSCs from those with limited differentiation potential. The identification of novel cell-specific markers is therefore crucial to enable discrimination between cell types, facilitating isolation of SSCs for clinical application. To date no specific markers are known for the isolation of SSCs.
A recent collaboration between the University of Southampton and the Aptamer Group aims to employ proprietary methodologies to identify novel cell-surface markers (or groups thereof), which are selective for SSCs. Here we are using the power of nucleic acids aptamer selection to discriminate between SSC and other cell types. The use of liquid-handling robotics was employed to facilitate the rapid identification and quality control of aptamers with discriminatory properties. The resulting aptamers can be used in conjunction with flow cytometry and imaging techniques to differentiate between cell types.