Stem Cell Breakthrough

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( — February 1, 2014)  —  Scientists in Japan showed stem cells are now able to be made rapidly simply by dunking blood cells into acid.


Stem cells can change into any tissue and are already being trialled for fixing the heart, eye and mind.


The latest development, published in the journal Nature, could make the technology cheaper, faster and safer.


Your body is built of cells with a particular job – neurons, liver cells, muscle cells – and that function is static.


Nevertheless, stem cells can become another type of cell, and they’ve become a significant field of research in medicine due to their potential to regenerate the human anatomy.


Fertilized human embryos are one, ethically challenged, source of stem cells. Nobel prize winning research also revealed that skin cells could be “genetically reprogrammed” to become stem cells (termed coined as pluripotent stem cells).


Acid Shocking


Now a report proves that shocking blood cells with acid may also activate the transformation into stem cells – this time termed STAP (stimulus-activated acquisition of pluripotency) cells.


Dr Haruko Obokata, in the Riken Center for Developmental Biology in Japan, said she was “really surprised” that cells could react to their own surroundings in this manner.


She added: “It is fascinating to think about the brand new possibilities these findings offer us, perhaps not just in regenerative medicine, but cancer too.”


Chris Mason, professor of regenerative medicine at University College London, said if it also works in humans then “the age of personalized medicine would have finally arrived.  Mason continued  “This is a quite exciting, but surprise, finding. It appears a bit too good to be accurate, but the host of specialists who’ve reviewed and checked this, I am certain that it is.”


For age-related macular degeneration, which causes vision loss, it takes 10 months to really go from a patient’s epidermis sample to your treatment that might be injected into their eye -and at enormous cost.


Dr Ilic added: “The tactic is truly groundbreaking. It will produce a fundamental change in how scientific researchers perceive the interplay of surroundings and genome.”


But he added: “It does not bring stem-cell-centered therapy closer. We’ll have to use the exact same precautions for the cells generated in this manner as for the cells isolated from fertilized eggs or reprogrammed using a standard approach.”


And Prof Lovell-Badge stated: “It is definitely going to be some time before the nature of these cells are comprehended, and if they might prove to be useful for developing treatments, but the extremely fascinating thing to find will be the mechanism underlying what sort of low pH jolt activates reprogramming – and exactly why it doesn’t occur when we eat lemon or vinegar or drink a soda?”