Scientists were able to reprogram mature stem cells from mice back into an embryonic-like state, which could revolutionize stem cell research by making embryonic cells easier and cheaper to generate.
In experiments that could open a new era in stem cell biology, scientists have found a cheap and easy way to reprogram mature cells from mice back into an embryonic-like state that allowed them to generate many types of tissue.
The research, described as game-changing by experts in the field, suggests human cells could in future be reprogrammed by the same technique, offering a simpler way to replace damaged cells or grow new organs for sick and injured people.
”It may not be necessary to create an embryo to acquire embryonic stem cells,” Dr. Charles Vacanti, a Brigham and Woman’s Hospital anesthesiologist and the study’s senior author, said in a statement, referring to controversy over the ethics of research that involves creating and destroying human embryos for possible medical benefit. “(This) could open up a wide range of possibilities for new research and applications using living cells” and “reduce the need to utilize embryonic stem cells.”
Scientists not involved in the research used words like “astounding” and “revolutionary” to describe the findings. In one report, one Harvard stem cell researcher said it’s “almost like alchemy.”
But three Texas Medical Center scientists involved in stem cell researchers stressed there’s a lot left to be known about the discovery before getting too excited about it. They noted that scientists need to reproduce the work, prove it can work in human and adult cells and show that the changes are lasting and don’t grow so uncontrollably as to result in tumors.
“A dose of health skepticism is needed right now,” said Dr. James Willerson, president of the Texas Heart Institute and a leader in adult stem cell research for heart problems.
Still, Willerson acknowledged the research is a potential game-changer if it is borne out – less expensive, less time consuming and simpler than current methods. He said you can expect Texas Heart to “take a look at it ourselves pretty soon.”