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Press release No. 19/2011, 2011-03-07 | zur deutschen Fassung | print version | Search

Stem cell research without animal experiments

International research team develops innovative test for stem cells

No laboratory animals, better results and lower costs – researchers from RWTH Aachen, Kiel University and The Scripps Research Institute (San Diego, USA) are presenting a new method for stem cell research without animal experiments in the current edition of Nature Methods (6 March 2011). Basic research on human stem cells, including the much-discussed embryonic stem cells, is an important component of regenerative medicine. Previous quality checks in this field have been based mostly on studies on mice.

Dr Franz-Josef Müller from the Centre for Integrative Psychiatry (ZIP Kiel) at Kiel University explains: "The new PluriTest procedure allows us standardised verification of so-called pluripotent stem cell characteristics in the rapidly growing number of human stem cell lines. These special stem cells are regarded as ‘all-rounders’ because they are principally able to create every type of human cell. In the process, we can forgo data from animal testing laboratories and simultaneously achieve more precise results." PluriTest is based on a new bioinformatic algorithm which was developed by Franz-Josef Müller and Bernhard Schuldt, doctoral candidate at the Aachen Institute for Advanced Study in Computational Engineering Science (AICES), RWTH Aachen. "In order to perform the computer-aided analysis, we have compiled the world’s largest database of gene expression patterns in known human pluripotent cell lines. In doing so, we were able to develop a pattern recognition algorithm, which can differentiate between pluripotent and non-pluripotent cell lines", according to Schuldt.

The research group thus offers an alternative to tests on stem cell lines with lab mice. The new procedure was implemented in the PluriTest web-based tool ( and is available across the world for researchers to use to analyse their stem cell lines.

Further information:
Franz-Josef Müller, who initiated and coordinated the tests in cooperation with Jeanne Loring from South California, received funding for his work from the Else-Kröner Fresenius Foundation in Bad Homburg.

Bernhard Schuldt is a member of a project to create reconstruction procedures for biological networks under the leadership of the Aachen Professor, Andreas Schuppert (AICES – Data driven modelling in computational engineering sciences), which is financed by Bayer Technology Services GmbH (Leverkusen, On this basis, at AICES, as part of the StemCellFactory project promoted by the Bio.NRW initiative, a quality assurance system is being developed for the automated production of iPS cells.

Other authors of the study are Roy Williams (The Sanford-Burnham Institute, San Diego, USA), Dylan Mason, Gulsah Altun, Louise Laurent, Johanna Goldmann (The Scripps Research Institute, San Diego, USA), Eirini Papapetrou (Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, New York, USA), Nils O. Schmidt (University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf (UKE)) Arne Herbst and Josef Aldenhoff (ZIP Kiel) as well as Sandra Danner (Fraunhofer Research Institution for Marine Biotechnology (EMB), Lübeck).

Link to the original publication and to PluriTest: under: DOI: 10.1038/nmeth.1580

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Caption: Franz-Josef Müller from Kiel University and Bernhard Schuldt, RWTH Aachen, develop a method for stem cell research.
Copyright: CAU, Photo: Christina Kloodt

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Caption: (from left) Bernd Aldenhoff, Arne Herbst and Franz-Josef Müller from the Centre for Integrative Psychiatry at Kiel University (ZIP Kiel).
Copyright: CAU, Photo: Christina Kloodt

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Dr med. Franz-Josef Müller
Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel
Telephone: +49 431 99004169

Dipl.-Math. Bernhard Schult
Aachen Institute for Advanced Study in Computational Engineering Science (AICES), RWTH Aachen University
Telephone: +49 241 8099138

Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel
Press and Communication Services, Claudia Eulitz
Address: D-24098 Kiel, phone: +49 (0431) 880-2104, fax: +49 (0431) 880-1355