Stem cells are the body's master cells, able to morph into any type of tissue, organ, or blood. Patient specific stem cells hold the promise of reversing cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer's and other diseases and also allow researchers to grow patient-specific organ and tissue transplants which will not require harmful anti-rejection drugs.
Up until now, the stem cells produced from a patients own skin had within them remnants which made them unsafe (linked to health problems such as genetic disorders and cancer).
Robert Lanza and a team led by Kwang Soo Kim of Harvard University succeeded in delivering the genes by fusing them with a cell penetrating peptide which does not pose the risk of genetic mutation. Their findings are published in the journal Cell Stem Cell.
This system eliminates the potential risks associated with the use of viruses, DNA transfection, and potentially harmful chemicals and in the future could potentially provide a safe source of patient-specific cells for regenerative medicine. Cell Stem Cell
Their technique involves soaking cells in human proteins that turn back the clock biologically, making the cells behave like powerful embryonic stem cells. They plan to seek Food and Drug Administration permission to test the cells in people by next year.
"This method eliminates the risks associated with genetic and chemical manipulation, and provides for the first time a potentially safe source of iPS cells for translation into the clinic," Lanza said.
"This is the ultimate stem cell solution -- you just add some proteins to a few skin cells and voila! Patient-specific stem cells!" Reuters
Only a tiny percentage of skin cells in the study transformed into iPS cells over two months (0.001%).
"How readily or quickly this technology is applied, and whether the efficiency is improved, are things that we will have to wait and see. said Dr. Arnold Kriegstein, director of the Institute for Regeneration Medicine at the University of California" Time