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NIH EUREKA award funds research at WPI aimed at turning adult skin cells into stem-like cells
Date:9/3/2008

hensive study of the contents of the Xenopus extract, systematically searching for specific componentsparticularly proteins, RNAs, and micro-RNAsthat may be responsible for its ability to induce pluripotency in adult cells. They will test components by exposing adult skin cells to selected fractions of the extract and then looking for the genetic markers of pluripotency. Treated cells will also be tested for their ability to form all three of the germ layers that develop early in the formation of an embryo. The germ layers go on to form all of the many tissue types in the body. This is a commonly accepted test for pluripotency.

Dominko says the ultimate goal of the NIH project is to identify and characterize components of the Xenopus extract that can induce pluripotency in adult cells. "A fully differentiated adult cell, whether a muscle cell, a liver cell, or a neuron, retains its 'memory' of its embryonic state," she says. "We want to find a way to chemically erase the adult cell memory and revive the embryonic memory, so the cells regain the ability to become any type of cell."

Newly pluripotent adult cells could be put to the same uses now being identified for embryonic and adult stem cells, but would avoid the most serious problems associated with those cell types. For example, patients receiving a transplant derived from embryonic stem cells would need to take a lifelong regime of immunosuppressive drugs to avoid rejection. The need for immunosuppressive drugs could be avoided by using a patient's own adult stem cells, but these cells are difficult to obtain and have limited ability to regenerate tissue after being grown in the lab. Recent advances in using transgenic techniques to transform adult cells into stem cells carry the risk that the resulting cells could grow into tumors, a concern also associated with embryonic stem cells.

"In preliminary work, we have shown that cells induced to pluripotency with Xenopus extract have a mu
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Contact: Michael Dorsey
mwdorsey@wpi.edu
508-831-5609
Worcester Polytechnic Institute
Source:Eurekalert

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