Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Edinburgh researchers report stem cell breakthrough

Researchers from the University of Edinburgh announced yesterday that they have taken a "vital step" towards understanding how cells harvested from skin tissue can be reprogrammed to become induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs), saying their study could aid in understanding and treating several diseases including Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, Multiple sclerosis and muscular degeneration.

The researchers said that although seven years have passed since the creation of the first iPSCs line, generating iPSCs still remains a challenge. Current methods are inefficient, poorly understood, costly and time consuming.

In this study, the research team found that the process though which iPSCs are currently developed is not a simple reversal of how skin cells are generated during normal human development. They made this discovery by tracking the change of skin cells during the reprogramming process using a high-resolution analysis with novel cell-surface markers.

"Here we demonstrate that in mouse embryonic fibroblasts, reprogramming follows an orderly sequence of stage transitions, marked by changes in the cell-surface markers CD44 and ICAM1, and a Nanog–enhanced green fluorescent protein (Nanog–eGFP) reporter." extract from the study's abstract.

The researchers hope that the new insight provided by their study will allow other scientists to mass-produce induced pluripotent stem cells for research and therapeutic purposes, hopefully leading to new treatments for diseases like multiple sclerosis

"As exciting as this technology is, we still know very little about how cell reprogramming actually works. Using a new technique, we have improved our understanding of the process. Our work marks an exciting step towards ensuring that iPSCs technology will meet its full potential.", commented Dr Keisuke Kaji, one of the study's authors.

Reference
O'Malley J, Skylaki S, Iwabuchi KA, Chantzoura E, Ruetz T, Johnsson A, Tomlinson SR, Linnarsson S, & Kaji K (2013). High-resolution analysis with novel cell-surface markers identifies routes to iPS cells. Nature PMID: 23728301

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