Skin cells turned directly into heart cells.

Scientists have successfully converted adult skin cells directly into beating heart cells efficiently without having to first go through the laborious process of generating embryonic-like stem cells.

The powerful general technology platform could lead to novel treatments for diseases and injuries involving cell loss or damage such as heart disease, Parkinson’s, and Alzheimer’s disease, according to researchers at the Scripps Research Institute.

In 2006, Japanese scientists reported that they could reprogram mouse skin cells to become pluripotent simply by inserting a set of four genes into the cells dubbed induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells. But creating iPS cells itself is a time taking procedure.

Hence, lead author Sheng Ding and colleagues tweaked the process by completely bypassing the iPS stage and going directly from one type of mature cell (a skin cell) to another (a heart cell).

Amazing. This is almost the biological equivalent of alchemy.

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