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A patient's own skin cells may one day treat multiple diseases
Date:8/4/2011

erative properties as human embryonic stem cells, but they are derived in a lab from adult cells, such as skin cells, by inducing or forcing them to express specific genes that are normally dormant in that type of cell. In theory, a person's skin cells could be induced to make neurons that produce the neurotransmitter dopamine, for example, and be delivered to brain regions where it is lacking in patients with Parkinson's disease. Similarly, cells could be induced to regenerate heart muscle and blood vessels after a heart attack, or neurons following a spinal cord injury. Many labs at UC Davis, including the Knoepfler lab, are producing and studying human iPSCs.

One advantage cited for iPSCs over stem cells derived from embryos is that problems of rejection due to immunological differences between the donor (the embryo) and the patient would be eliminated, because the iPSCs would be derived from each individual patient. A recent study using iPSCs in mice found that tissue rejection may, in fact, occur in some cases. However, Knoepfler believes that particular study was conducted in the context of tumors, which tend to be highly immunogenic and not be applicable for human use. While the ability of human iPSCs to escape immune attention must be investigated further, Knoepfler says that iPSCs remain an attractive potential avenue for stem cell-based medicine, in addition to embryonic stem cells.

Another concern with using either iPSCs or embryonic stem cells is that cells with the ability to turn into many different cell types may grow out of control, producing cancerous tumors. Knoepfler points out those studies involved implanting large numbers of undifferentiated stem cells into mice that were treated with immunosuppressant drugs to reject transplants, making the conditions ideal for cancers to arise. This scenario, he argues, is unlikely to be applicable when treating humans for actual diseases. In such cases, the stem cells would be induced to
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Contact: Charles Casey
charles.casey@ucdmc.ucdavis.edu
916-734-9048
University of California - Davis Health System
Source:Eurekalert

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