Robert Lanza is now reporting that his research group has produced induced Pluripotent Stem Cells (iPS) that are safe for use in humans. The website, Red Orbit, has provided a link to the original (.pdf)article. See the Time magazine news article, here.
Lanza gives credit to the pioneering work of Shinya Yamanaka:
Dr. Robert Lanza, chief scientific officer at Advanced Cell Technology (ACT), reported today in the journal Cell that his team has created stem cells using human skin cells and four proteins. The innovation builds on the breakthrough discovery in 2006 by Shinya Yamanaka, who similarly coaxed human skin cells to revert to a pristine, embryonic state by introducing four key genes into the cells, piggybacked on viruses.
The technique relies on proteins that induce reprogramming of the cells, rather than genes or viruses. These appear to function in a manner analogous to the stimulating factors that are currently the standard of care for low blood cell counts: The body – in this case, the cell – begins to function the way it’s wanted when certain proteins are introduced.
In this study, patients’ own skin cells were harvested by a small biopsy. Approximately one in 10,000 of those cells were induced to revert to the embryonic stage. While this 0.001% seems a minute fraction, it’s much more significant and achieveable than the production of patient-specific cells from cloned embryos, where each cell line would require multiple donor oocytes – “eggs” – harvested from women. Obtaining those oocytes has not proven very easy, even without the ethical problem of creating and destroying a human embryo that is the twin of the cell nucleus donor.
Fasten your seat belts – things will move fast, now.