Along many different pathways scientists are learning how to re-program stem cells into a variety of other cells. Some of the crucial genes have been identified, and certain chemicals have been used to manipulate their properties. A new study, reported in Stem Cell Digest, has made initial steps in a better way to convert stem cells:
A team of Harvard Stem Cell Institute (HSCI) researchers has made a major advance toward producing induced pluripotent stem cells, or iPS cells, that are safe enough to use in treating diseases in patients.
The chemical the team used is a small molecule that members named RepSox in honor of another Boston team. It replaces Sox2 and cMyc, two of the four genes currently being used to reprogram adult skin cells into an embryonic-like state. Because cMyc is a tumor promoter and iPS cells created using it could never be used to treat patients, researchers have been looking for ways to turn back the cellular clock without the use of genes.
“This discovery is exciting because it demonstrates the feasibility of using chemicals to make safer patient-specific stem cells for transplantation medicine,” said Justin K. Ichida, a postdoctoral fellow in Eggan’s lab and the first author on the study. “One of the most important things we learned is that with respect to molecular pathways there may be several ways to convert one type of cell into another. By using a nonbiased chemical screening approach, we uncovered a previously unknown way to make stem cells. The big challenge over the next decade will be to figure out how to make the right cells for disease treatment. This approach will be important for achieving that goal.”
[Source: Stem Cell Digest]