Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Cellular Manipulations ... Stem Cells on the Rise

Just last week in the peer-reviewed journal Science, a report was published detailing how to generate induced pluripotent stem cells (or iPS cells) through genetic manipulation without the use of viral vectors. This work was submitted by Keisuke Okita, Masato Nakagawa, Hong Hyenjong, and Shinya Yamanaka.

Dr. Yamanka and colleagues previously published research detailing their work creating iPS cells using retroviral and lentiviral vectors that randomly incorporate into the genome of the host cell. These incorporated genetic components used only three genes: Oct4, Sox2, and Klf4. The resulting iPS cells could differentiation into any cell type.

Though promising, clinical progress would be limited due to safety concerns using retroviral/lentiviral infection - it turns out this poses a seroius risk of activating or inactivating important host genes that could ultimately lead to cancer or other disastrous consequences.

Using this new plamist transfection reported this month, that risk is averted - though the efficiency of manipulation is actually lower. The successful cells could still be differentiated into progeny of all three germ layers, indicating the continued power in iPS cells derived using this newer method.

While efficiency issues still need to be worked out, this is a huge step forward and could soon be translated into the clinic with a lot more hard work.

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