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Induced neural stem cells: Not quite ready for prime time
Date:2/15/2010

irror all the differentiation capabilities of embryonic cells suggests that there are unknown factors at play that may limit their use in terms of modeling disease in the laboratory, one of the most important potential early applications of stem cell technology. Such unknowns would also limit their use in clinical settings for such things as cell transplants.

Intriguingly, the new study suggests the presence or absence of the genes used to reprogram skin cells to become the blank slate pluripotent cells makes no difference in terms of their capacity to differentiate. Some of the induced stem cell lines tested in the study were made using techniques that bypassed the use of genes that had been used to reprogram skin cells to become pluripotent stem cells.

It was predicted, Zhang explains, that the absence of exotic genetic factors would result in cells essentially identical to embryonic stem cells. "It is totally surprising that doesn't happen at all," says Zhang. "It tells us the techniques for generating induced pluripotent stem cells are still not optimal. There is room for improvement."

Despite their unpredictability, Zhang notes that induced stem cells can still be used to make pure populations of specific types of cells, making them useful for some applications such as testing potential new drugs for efficacy and toxicity. He also noted that the limitations identified by his group are technical issues likely to be resolved relatively quickly.

"It appears to be a technical issue," he says. "Technical things can usually be overcome."

The key, he explains, is determining what things are at play that make the induced cells different.


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Contact: Su-Chun Zhang
zhang@waisman.wisc.edu
608-265-2543
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Source:Eurekalert

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