February 5, 2014

Stem cells - an incredible discovery

Stem cells' created in less than 30 minutes in 'groundbreaking' discovery

Scientists have turned adult cells back to their embryonic form in under 30 minutes by simply treating them with acid in a breakthough which could revolutionise personalized medicine.

Experts in the field of stem cells have hailed the research as groundbreaking and say, if replicated in humans, it would herald a new ‘age of  personalized medicine.’

Turning cells back to an embryonic – also known as pluripotent – state means they can then be turned into any other type of cell in the body.  Previously that could only be achieved through genetic manipulation which was time consuming and costly.  But scientists at the Riken Centre for Developmental Biology in Kobe, Japan, found that cells taken from newborn mice effectively ‘lose their identity’ within 30 minutes of being exposed to mildly acidic conditions.

Professor Austin Smith of Cambridge University, writing in the Journal Nature said the new cells could be seen as a ‘blank slate’ from which any cell could emerge depending on its environment.  “Remarkably, instead of triggering cell death or tumour growth as might be expected, a new cell state emerges that exhibits and unprecedented potential for differentiation into every possible cell type,” he said.
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Professor Chris Mason, Chair of Regenerative Medicine Bioprocessing, at University College London.
“If it works in man, this could be the game changer that ultimately makes a wide range of cell therapies available using the patient’s own cells as starting material – the age of personalized medicine would have finally arrived.

“Who would have thought that to reprogram adult cells to an embryonic stem cell-like (pluripotent) state just required a small amount of acid for less than half an hour – an incredible discovery.”

I'm sure that tests on humans will start quickly.  How wonderful that this discovery could end the culture wars over the use of embryos to supply stem cells.

Posted by Jill Fallon at February 5, 2014 7:37 PM | Permalink