Novel way to convert ordinary skin cells into embryonic-like stem cells unveiled

December 24th, 2007 - 4:21 pm ICT by admin  

London, December 24 (ANI): Scientists have come up with a way to convert an ordinary skin cell into cells that seem to be very similar to embryonic stem cells, which can be directed to form any kind of tissue.

Dr. George Daley, a researcher at Harvard Medical School and Children’s Hospital Boston, hopes that the new approach may pave the way for an age of regenerative medicine, wherein people can get tailor-made treatments for injuries and diseases like Parkinson’s and diabetes.

The researcher also hopes that the new technique will make it easier for scientists to study diseases far better than before.

Although two other research teams worked on a similar project wherein they used commercially available cells grown in labs, Dr. Daley says that it is feasible to get skin cells from any volunteer.

“Ours is the only group to go from skin biopsy to cell line,” Nature magazine quoted Dr. Daley as saying in a statement.

His team is now trying to generate the so-called induced pluripotent stem cell (iPS) cells to match a variety of diseases.

Dr. Daley has, however, admitted that the approach is yet not ready for human trials, and that tests on mice had shown that the method could cause cancer or other unforeseen problems.

He said that his team would continue to work with true embryonic stem cells, taken from days-old embryos.

Although the use of embryonic stem cells is controversial because it involves the destruction of the embryo, most stem cell experts say it is essential to continue to study them.

“Understanding how to derive stem cells from embryos may teach us how to make the reprogramming process that much more efficient,” Dr. Daley said.

He revealed that it was through a study of embryonic stem cells that his team could learn which genes are needed to make ordinary cells act like them.

He said that his team used four genes, and discovered that two of them were essential for making the skin cells act like embryo cells, and two others helped them grow efficiently.

Dr. Daleys group also converted foetal and embryonic cells into various cell types, and found that the cells thus formed were far easier to work with.

“The fact that embryonic and foetal cells convert more efficiently than adult cells was suggested in mouse studies but the pattern is quite apparent with human cells. This suggests that there are many aspects of the biology of reprogramming we still need to understand to make the process more efficient,” Daley said. (ANI)

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