September 25, 2008
Adult Cell To Stem Cell Conversion Made Safer

Harvard researchers have improved a technique for converting adult cells into induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells. Pluripotent stem cells can become all other cell types in the body.

Now researchers led by Konrad Hochedlinger of the Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, have used the same four genes to create iPS cells, but carried instead by adenoviruses. These don't normally integrate into the genome of cells that they infect and therefore present little risk of cancer.

Many gene therapy techniques boost the risk of cancer. The initial method used to introduce genes to reprogram adult cells into stem cells ran the risk of creating cancerous cells. This newer technique lowers that risk substantially.

This method for creating pluripotent stem cells has a few advantages over using embryos. Most obviously, the political ethical opposition to human embryo destruction is avoided. Second, the stem cells can be produced from one's own body and so they are more likely to be immunologically compatible. Third, the cost might go lower.

This improvement in technique comes less than a year after the original paper that showed how to change adult cells into iPS cells.

"This is certainly a major stem cell milestone," said Advanced Cell Technologies chief scientific officer Bob Lanza, who was not involved in the research. "Itís the first ray of light that iPS cells could soon be used to treat patients."

These iPS cells -- short for induced pluripotent stem cell -- debuted less than a year ago: By using viruses to insert key developmental genes, researchers coaxed human skin cells into an embryonic state, capable of growing into almost any other type of tissue.

This moves us a lot closer toward having useful stem cell therapies. We need those therapies in order to reverse the aging process and rejuvenate our bodies.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2008 September 25 11:49 PM  Biotech Stem Cells


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