WORCESTER, Mass. A research team comprised of faculty at Worcester Polytechnic Institute's (WPI) Life Sciences and Bioengineering Center (LSBC) and investigators at CellThera, a private company also located at the LSBC, has discovered a novel way to turn on stem cell genes in human fibroblasts (skin cells) without the risks associated with inserting extra genes or using viruses. This discovery opens a new avenue for reprogramming cells that could eventually lead to treatments for a range of human diseases and traumatic injuries by coaxing a patient's own cells to repair and regenerate the damaged tissues.
The research team reported its findings in the paper "Induction of Stem Cell Gene Expression in Adult Human Fibroblasts without Transgenes," published online July 21, 2009 (in advance of September print publication) as a "fast track" paper from the journal Cloning and Stem Cells.
"We show that by manipulating culture conditions alone, we can achieve changes in fibroblasts that would be beneficial in development of patient-specific cell therapy approaches," the authors wrote in the paper.
Early on, the emerging field of regenerative medicine focused on embryonic stem cells, which are pluripotent, meaning they can grow into all the tissues of an adult organism. In the pluripotent state, several genes are known to be active, helping to control the stem cells. These genes, including OCT4, SOX2 and NANOG, are accepted as markers of pluripotency because they are active in stem cells, but become dormant once the stem cells begin to differentiate and head down the path to developing into a specific kind of cell type and tissue.
While the study of embryonic stem cells continues to yield important knowledge, research teams around the world are also working to change, or reprogram, fully-differentiated cells like skin cells, back to a more pluripotent state. Called induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS), these reprogrammed cells could
|Contact: Michael Cohen|
Worcester Polytechnic Institute