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Seeking superior stem cells: 100-fold increase in efficiency in reprogramming human cells to induced stem cells

Date:
October 11, 2011
Source:
Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute
Summary:
Researchers have announced a new technique to reprogram human cells into stem cells. Their process increases the efficiency of reprogramming by 100-fold and generates cells of a higher quality at a faster rate. By adding two protein factors to the current mix of four, scientists brought about dramatic improvement in the efficiency of reprogramming and the robustness of stem cell development.

Microscope view of human induced pluripotent stem cells (orange) growing on 'feeder' cells (blue). False color.
Credit: Genome Research Limited

Researchers from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute have announced a new technique to reprogram human cells, such as skin cells, into stem cells. Their process increases the efficiency of cell reprogramming by one hundred-fold and generates cells of a higher quality at a faster rate.

Until now cells have been reprogrammed using four specific regulatory proteins. By adding two further regulatory factors, Liu and co-workers brought about a dramatic improvement in the efficiency of reprogramming and the robustness of stem cell development. The new streamlined process produces cells that can grow more easily.

"This research is a milestone in human stem cells," explains Wei Wang, first author on the research from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. "Our technique provides a foundation to unlock the full potential of stem cells."

Stem cells are unspecialized cells that are able to renew themselves through cell division and can be induced to become functional tissue- or organ-specific cells. It is hoped that stem cells will be used to replace dying or damaged cells with healthy, functional cells. This could have wide-ranging uses in medicine such as organ replacement, bone replacement and treatment of neurodegenerative diseases.

With more than 20 years of research, gold standard stem cells are derived from mice, largely because they are easy to work with and provide accurate and reproducible results. The team's aim was to develop human cells of equivalent quality to mouse stem cells.

"The reprogrammed cells developed by our team have proved to have the same capabilities as mouse stem cells," states Pentao Liu, senior author from the Sanger Institute. "Our approach will enable researchers to easily engineer and reprogramme human stem cells to generate cell types for cell replacement therapies in humans."

Retinoic acid receptor gamma (RAR-γ) and liver receptor homolog (Lrh-1), the additional regulatory factors used by Liu and co-workers, were introduced into the skin cells along with the four other regulatory proteins. The team's technology produced reprogrammed cells after just four days, compared to the seven days required for the four-protein approach. Key indicators of successfully reprogrammed cells, Oct4 and Rex-1 genes, were seen to be switched on much faster in a much higher number of cells, demonstrating increased efficiency in reprogramming.

"This is the most promising and exciting development in our attempt to develop human stem cells that lend themselves in practical applications. It bears comparison to other technologies as it is simple, robust and reliable," says Allan Bradley, Senior Group Leader and Director of Emeritus at Sanger Institute.

This work was supported by the Wellcome Trust and by the China Scholarship Council.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Wang et al. Rapid and efficient reprogramming of somatic cells to induced pluripotent stem cells by retinoic acid receptor gamma and liver receptor homolog. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2011; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1100893108

Cite This Page:

Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute. "Seeking superior stem cells: 100-fold increase in efficiency in reprogramming human cells to induced stem cells." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 11 October 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/10/111010173027.htm>.
Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute. (2011, October 11). Seeking superior stem cells: 100-fold increase in efficiency in reprogramming human cells to induced stem cells. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/10/111010173027.htm
Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute. "Seeking superior stem cells: 100-fold increase in efficiency in reprogramming human cells to induced stem cells." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/10/111010173027.htm (accessed July 22, 2014).

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