Breakthrough with stem cells could 'end need for transplants'
Living mice able to produce the cells capable of helping to repair a damaged heart
Steve Connor is the Science Editor of The Independent. He has won many awards for his journalism, including five-times winner of the prestigious British science writers’ award; the David Perlman Award of the American Geophysical Union; twice commended as specialist journalist of the year in the UK Press Awards; UK health journalist of the year and a special merit award of the European School of Oncology for his investigative journalism. He has a degree in zoology from the University of Oxford and has a special interest in genetics and medical science, human evolution and origins, climate change and the environment.
Wednesday 11 September 2013
Scientists have created stem cells within the body of laboratory mice for the first time in a landmark study showing that it may be possible one day to repair damaged human organs in situ without the need for transplant operations.
Until now stem cells created by a new genetic engineering technique have only been created in vitro in the laboratory, but the researchers were able to perform gene therapy on living mice to generate the stem cells in vivo.
If the work can be transferred safely to humans it raises the possibility of generating stem cells at the site of a diseased organ, such as heart or pancreas, so that a person’s own stem cells could be generated to repair any damaged tissue.
“We think this opens new possibilities in regenerative medicine...One possible advantage over other stem cell techniques is that the cells are already there in the right place with the possibility of becoming functional cells - with no need for grafts,” said Manuel Serrano of the Spanish National Cancer Research Centre in Madrid.
“We can now start to think about methods for inducing regeneration locally and in a transitory manner for a particular damaged tissue,” said Dr Serrano, who led the study published in the journal Nature.
Stem cells can be taken from early embryos or be created from ordinary skin cells by injecting them with four genetic factors that re-programme the adult cells back to their embryonic state. These stem cells are called induced pluriopotent stem (iPS) cells and their discovery was awarded a Nobel prize in 2012.
Dr Serrano’s team carried out the genetic therapy on living mice and found that it was possible to create iPS cells within their bodies. These cells showed many of the hallmarks of being “pluripotent” - capable to developing into any of the specialised tissues of the body.
However, they researchers also found that the technique caused cancer-like growths, called teratomas, to appear in some mice. This risk would have to be eliminated before any clinical trials on humans, Dr Serrano said.
Chris Mason, professor of regenerative medicine at University College London, said the reprogramming a patient’s own cells within their bodies has the potential to transform their lives.
“The major challenge will be tightly controlling every step in this potential approach to treating patients in order to deliver clinical benefits whilst avoiding significant complications,” Professor Mason said.
Ilaria Bellantuono, a stem cell researcher at the University of Sheffield, said: “This [study] is very exciting. Clearly nobody wishes to do this for therapeutic purposes because this leads to the formation of tumours called teratomas. However this is a proof of concept that pluripotency can be achieved in vivo.”
- 1 What happens to your body when you give up sugar?
- 2 Have sex with your iPad thanks to the new sex toy no-one asked for
- 4 The 'sex selfie stick' lets you FaceTime the inside of a vagina
- 5 Why you're almost certainly more like your father than your mother
Mark Zuckerberg: Facebook CEO's one simple test for who to hire
Bali nine: Welcome to 'Execution Island' – the Indonesian holiday resort where foreigners are sent to die
'A girl is more responsible for rape than a boy': The statement that shocked the world... except India
The 'sex selfie stick' lets you FaceTime the inside of a vagina
Saudi Arabia executions now at 'unprecedented rate' after kingdom kills four more in two days
Durham Free School: 'Creationism taught at' free school facing closure
Nearly 100,000 of Britain's poorest children go hungry after parents' benefits are cut
Ukip would cut billions from Scottish budget to fund English tax cuts
End of the licence fee: BBC to back radical overhaul of how it is funded
Ukraine crisis: Top Chinese diplomat backs Putin and says West should 'abandon zero-sum mentality'
Boris Nemtsov shot dead: Outspoken Putin critic who had expressed fears for his life is killed near the Kremlin
£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are an award-winning digit...
£45000 - £55000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior VMware Platform En...
£10000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A distributor of specialist ele...
£17000 - £19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A distributor of specialist ele...