Stem cell breakthrough may herald age of personalised medicine

Posted: January 29, 2014 at 10:42 pm

29/01/2014 - 15:56:06Back to World Home

A revolutionary new approach to creating stem cells in the laboratory could open up a new era of personalised medicine, it is claimed.

Scientists have shown it is possible to reprogramme cells into an embryonic-like state simply by altering their environment.

It means in principle that cells can have their developmental clock turned back without directly interfering with their genes something never achieved before.

The cells become pluripotent, having the potential ability to transform themselves into virtually any kind of tissue in the body, from brain to bone.

Reprogramming a patients own cells in this way is seen as the Holy Grail of regenerative medicine, raising the prospect of repairing diseased and damaged organs with new healthy tissue that will not be rejected by the immune system.

Current methods of performing the same trick involve genetic manipulation, which carries with it a serious risk of triggering cancer.

But the new method described in the journal Nature requires no genetic tweaking. Scientists simply bathed immature white blood cells from mice in an acidic solution for 25 minutes.

Tests showed that, stressed in this way, some of the cells lost their blood identity and produced gene markers typical of early embryos.

When these cells were transferred to a special growth-promoting culture medium they began to multiply and acquired features typical of embryonic stem cells.

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Stem cell breakthrough may herald age of personalised medicine

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