Big stem cell news: a team from Harvard and Japan found a simple way to rewind cells in the body to become like embryonic stem cells. These new stem cells are already being considered in a primate spinal cord injury model, though that part hasn't been published.
This unexpected finding, reported in Nature
, has cell biologists all a twitter: it is shocking in its ease, revolutionary in its potential. Instead of reprogramming cells using genetic manipulation, this technique of making pluripotent cells applies stress to grown cells, in the form of a bath in acid; this appears to trigger their reversion to a primitive state -- faster and much easier than before.
They scientists call the cells STAP, for stimulus-triggered acquisition of pluripotency.
According to the Japan Times
, the scientists are already applying the new technique to a spinal cord injured monkeys.
A team of researchers at Harvard and the Riken Center for Developmental Biology in Kobe ... has developed a new method for generating cells that behave like embryonic stem cells by simply soaking mouse blood cells in a mild acid.
In the Harvard experiment that began in 2011, STAP cells have been created from monkeys artificially paralyzed with spinal cord injuries to implant them into the primates.
[Lead scientist Charles] Vacanti declined to go in detail about his findings, noting that he is preparing a paper for submission. But he suggested that the therapy has had positive effects, saying in an email that he has seen “amazing results.”
This is a cool story because it moves us closer to the notion of personalized medicine, using our own cells as repair kits. Researchers are hoping pluripotent cell lines have the ability to transform into any type of cell in the body, possibly treating trauma and disease.
This new work is sure to be challenged, and will have to be replicated in other labs. But it’s being considered a major breakthrough.
Here is a sample of wide coverage from the New York Times
, and from Nature