Indian-Australian reprogrammes skin cells to act as stem cells

February 5th, 2009 - 6:24 pm ICT by IANS  

Sydney, Feb 5 (IANS) A team led by an Indian-Australian scientist has reprogrammed skin cells to act as embryonic stem cells - a breakthrough that will allow unlimited access to study a range of diseases. Paul Verma, who led the programme at the Monash Institute of Medical Research (MIMR), said the significance of developing pluripotent stem cell lines or iPS cells ‘in-house’ cannot be underestimated. Earlier, iPS cell lines were being imported from America or Japan.

“We now have the capability to investigate any human disease we wish, rather than relying on iPS cells from specific diseases that have been generated elsewhere,” he said.

“Each iPS cell line generated from the same adult cells appears to be subtly different. We are keen to investigate these differences between iPS lines, which would be impossible to do if we had to rely on cells provided by other laboratories,” Verma said.

Verma and his team are working with Bernie Tuch, professor from the Sydney Cell Therapy Foundation, and will now generate iPS cells from type 1 diabetes patients to help understand the disease and develop better drugs.

Creating iPS cells does not require donated excess IVF embryos or human eggs; therefore, no human embryos are destroyed in the process. However, Verma said it is still too early to assume iPS cells are the preferable alternative to working with embryonic stem cells, said an MIMR release.

Paul Verma obtained his PhD at Adelaide University and moved to Melbourne in 2001 to continue research into reprogramming somatic cells, isolation and characterisation of embryonic and adult stem cells as a senior research fellow at MIMR. He is also a visiting professor at the National Centre for Biological Science, Bangalore, India.

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