Turning Blood Cells Into Stem Cells
The ability to make what are called "induced-pluripotent stem cells" (iPS) has been done before. What’s new now is that making them is becoming easier.
Johns Hopkins scientists have developed a reliable method to turn the clock back on blood cells, restoring them to a primitive stem cell state from which they can then develop into any other type of cell in the body.
The work, described in the Aug. 8 issue of the journal Public Library of Science (PLoS), is "Chapter Two" in an ongoing effort to efficiently and consistently convert adult blood cells into stem cells that are highly qualified for clinical and research use in place of human embryonic stem cells, says Elias Zambidis, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor of oncology and pediatrics at the Johns Hopkins Institute for Cell Engineering and the Kimmel Cancer Center.
"Taking a cell from an adult and converting it all the way back to the way it was when that person was a 6-day-old embryo creates a completely new biology toward our understanding of how cells age and what happens when things go wrong, as in cancer development," Zambidis says.
"Chapter One," Zambidis says, was work described last spring in PLoS One in which Zambidis and colleagues recounted the use of this successful method of safely transforming adult blood cells into heart cells. In the latest experiments, he and his colleagues now describe methods for coaxing adult blood cells to become so-called induced-pluripotent stem cells (iPS) — adult cells reprogrammed to an embryonic like state, and with unprecedented efficiencies.
Zambidis says his team has managed to develop a "super efficient, virus-free" way to make iPS cells, overcoming a persistent difficulty for scientists working with these cells in the laboratory. Generally, out of hundreds of blood cells, only one or two might turn into iPS cells. Using Zambidis’ method, 50 to 60 percent of blood cells were engineered into iPS cells.
Click here for other stem cell stories that we’ve covered. The idea that embryonic stem cells are a must-have for research is a myth.
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