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June 06, 2007

Induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells derived from fibroblasts

Cellstemcell_2In the inaugural issue of the Cell Press Cell Stem Cell, is the article "Directly Reprogrammed Fibroblasts Show Global Epigenetic Remodeling and Widespread Tissue Contribution" (abstract). The lead author is Dr Hochedlinger of the Harvard Stem Cell Institute.

This essentially confirm a study published in 2006 by Shinya Yamanaka of Kyoto University. The researchers were able to take mature body cells, in this case mouse fibroblasts, and by inserting four genes for transcription factors, they are able to induce a reversion to a pluripotent state (able to produce all cell lines). Pluripotency is the hallmark of the embryonic stem cell.

Two other teams also published papers in Nature reproducing this technique. One team was led by Dr Yamanaka, and the other by Dr Jaenisch, a scientist at the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research in Cambridge, Mass.

However, according the the Nature news site, the stem cells create are not quite equivalent to natural stem cells:

But the iPS cells aren't perfect, and could not be used safely to make genetically matched cells for transplant in, for example, spinal-cord injuries. Yamanaka found that one of the factors seems to contribute to cancer in 20% of his chimaeric (a mix of iPS cells and natural stem cells) mice. He thinks this can be fixed, but the retroviruses used may themselves also cause mutations and cancer.

This technique, if it can be performed reliably in humans, also ensures that the stem cells generated with have identical DNA to the patient's cells, thus allowing a perfect match for transplantation, if a therapy can be developed to repair damaged tissue, for instance, cardiac tissue destroyed due to a myocardial infarction.

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