Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine have devised a totally new and far more efficient way of generating induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs), immature cells that are able to develop into several different types of cells or tissues in the body. The researchers used fibroblast cells, which are easily obtained from skin biopsies, and could be used to generate patient-specific iPSCs for drug screening and tissue regeneration.
iPSCs are typically generated from adult non-reproductive cells by expressing four different genes called transcription factors. The generation of iPSCs was first reported in 2006 by Shinya Yamanaka, and multiple groups have since reported the ability to generate these cells using some variations on the same four transcription factors.
The promise of this line of research is to one day efficiently generate patient-specific stem cells in order to study human disease as well as create a cellular "storehouse" to regenerate a person's own cells, for example heart or liver cells. Despite this promise, generation of iPSCs is hampered by low efficiency, especially when using human cells.
"It's a game changer," says Edward Morrisey, PhD, professor in the Departments of Medicine and Cell and Developmental Biology and Scientific Director at the Penn Institute for Regenerative Medicine. “This is the first time we've been able to make induced pluripotent stem cells without the four transcription factors and increase the efficiency by 100-fold.” Morrisey led the study published this week in Cell Stem Cell.
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