The researchers chose to test the reprogramming efficiency of the minicircles in stem cells from human fat because previous work in Wu and Longaker's lab has shown that the cells are numerous, easy to isolate and amenable to the iPS transformation, probably because of the naturally higher levels of expression of some reprogramming genes. They found that about 10.8 percent of the stem cells took up the minicircles and expressed the green fluorescent protein, or GFP, versus about 2.7 percent of cells treated with a more traditional DNA plasmid.
When the researchers isolated the GFP-expressing cells and grew them in a laboratory dish, they found that the minicircles were gradually lost over a period of four weeks. To be sure the cells got a good dose of the genes, they reapplied the minicircles at days four and six. After 14 to 16 days, they began to observe clusters of cells resembling embryonic stem cell colonies - some of which no longer expressed GFP.
They isolated these GFP-free clusters and found that they exhibited all of the hallmarks of induced pluripotent cells: they expressed embryonic stem cell genes, they had similar patterns of DNA methylation, they could become multiple types of cells and they could form tumors called teratomas when injected under the skin of laboratory mice. They also confirmed that the minicircles had truly been lost and had not integrated into the stem cells' DNA.
Altogether, the researchers were able to make 22 new iPS cell lines from adult human adipose stem cells and adult human fibroblasts. Although the overall reprogramming efficiency of the minicircle method is lower than that of methods using viral vectors to introduce the genes (about 0.005 percent vs. about 0.01-0.05 percent, respectively), it still surpasses that of using conventional bacterial-based plasmids. Furthermore, stem cells from fat, and, for that matter, fat itself, are so prevalent that a slight reduc
|Contact: Krista Conger|
Stanford University Medical Center