Dr. Yamanaka of Japan, the MD who made history last week by announcing that he had been able to obtain embryo-like stem cells fom adult skin cells called fibrobalsts. On Friday, November 30, has published a new report in Nature Biotechnology telling us how he was able to skip inserting the potential cancer causing gene, c-Myc.
At this rate, who knows what we’ll have next week?
From The Scientist (online here):
In the current study, the researchers showed that pluripotent cells can be made from both mouse and human adult cells without introducing the c-Myc gene, by transducing just the other three. It’s not that Myc isn’t needed in the process, the authors noted in the paper; rather, they suggest that the other three genes may be spurring endogenous Myc activity. None of the 26 chimeras made from cells generated without c-Myc developed tumors within 100 days, compared to six out of 36 chimeras made from cells using all four genes.
So far, too, efficiency with this triple-gene method is much lower than with the original four genes; half of the experiments without c-Myc did not produce pluripotent cells at all, while experiments using the four genes almost always yielded pluripotent colonies. “Does this mean that it now only works with a rare cell type?” Lovell-Badge wrote. “As always, many more questions are posed than answered.”
The question is whether all fibroblasts are alike, or whether there is a smaller group of fibroblasts that are easier to induce to become “induced Pluripotent Stem” Cells.
If there are specialized cells in the skin that are easier to manipulate than others, this is good news for researchers and the patients who are looking toward stem cell research for treatments and cures.