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November 20, 2007

Reprogrammed skin cells replacing embryonic stem cells for research

TeratomasmallThese images are taken from the Sciencexpress report, "Induced Pluripotent Stem Cell Lines Derived from Human Somatic Cells," whose embargo was lifted minutes ago. I presented the news item in the previous post.

The researchers showed that they could take adult human skin cells, and then introduce 4 genes which would reprogram them into a viable stem cell line.

Here's the visual proof that their experiment worked. These images show the 3 basic tissue types in the human body, ectoderm, mesoderm, and endoderm as they are generated on the embryonic level. The skin cells turned into pluripotent where able to generate these tissue types when implanted into mice. (The type of tumor is called a teratoma).

Imagine a day when you could go in for a skin biopsy, then have a cell line available that could be used to regenerate tissue in the event of nerve damage (ectoderm), heart attack (mesoderm), or even replace a portion of the colon (endoderm).

While this doesn't address the root cause of the diseases, cell lines such as these could also be manipulated to mimick diseases such as Alzheimer's or Parkinson's in an attempt to understand the pathophysiology.

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