Researchers find easier way to make stem cells

By Maggie Fox, Health and Science Editor

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Researchers trying to find ways to transform ordinary skin cells into powerful stem cells said on Sunday they found a shortcut by “sprinkling” a chemical onto the cells.

Adding the chemical allowed the team at the Harvard Stem Cell Institute in Massachusetts to use just two genes to transform ordinary human skin cells into more powerful induced pluripotent stem cells or iPS cells.

“This study demonstrates there’s a possibility that instead of using genes and viruses to reprogram cells, one can use chemicals,” said Dr. Doug Melton, who directed the study published in the journal Nature Biotechnology.

Melton said Danwei Huangfu, a postdoctoral researcher in his lab, developed the new method.

“The exciting thing about Danwei’s work is you can see for the first time that you could sprinkle chemicals on cells and make stem cells,” Melton, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator, said in a statement.

Stem cells are the body’s master cells, giving rise to all the tissues, organs and blood. Embryonic stem cells are considered the most powerful kinds of stem cells, as they have the potential to give rise to any type of tissue.

Doctors hope to someday use them to transform medicine. Melton, for instance, wants to find a way to regenerate the pancreatic cells destroyed in type 1 diabetes and perhaps cure that disease.

INSERTING GENES  Continued…

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