University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers report the genetic reprogramming of human skin cells to create cells indistinguishable from embryonic stem cells. In addition to the scientific accomplishment, the findings could change the political and ethical landscape of stem cell biology as human embryos may no longer be needed to obtain the blank slate stem cells capable of becoming any of the 220 types of cells in the human body, the researchers say.
The new study was conducted in the laboratory of UW-Madison biologist James Thomson, who first coaxed stem cells from human embryos in 1998. It was led by Junying Yu of the Genome Center of Wisconsin and the Wisconsin National Primate Research Center.
“The induced cells do all the things embryonic stem cells do,” explains Thomson, a professor of anatomy in the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health. “It’s going to completely change the field.”
An advantage of using reprogrammed skin cells is that any cells developed for therapeutic purposes can be customized to the patient.
Thomson notes that more study of the newly-made cells is required to ensure that the “cells do not differ from embryonic stem cells in a clinically significant or unexpected way, so it is hardly time to discontinue embryonic stem cell research.”
The research will be published in the November 22 online edition of Science.
Release Date: November 20, 2007
Source: University of Wisconsin-Madison
Filed Under: Genomics/Proteomics