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Colorado researcher discovers mechanism for changing adult cells into stem-like cells
Date:10/7/2010

AURORA, Colo. (Oct. 7, 2010)In 2006, Dr. Shimya Yaminaka of Kyoto University in Japan set the stem cell and regenerative medicine research world on fire when he successfully transformed differentiated mouse skin cells into cells that looked and behave like embryonic stem cells. Embryonic stem cells, the subject of much controversy when used in research, have the ability to differentiate into any type of tissue.

Yaminaka's creation of induced pluripotent stem cells [iPSCs] meant that in the future, research to improve human disease might be able to use iPSCs in lieu of embryonic stem cells. Since then, researchers around the world have been able to replicate his process. However, no one has been able to unlock the mechanism that allows cells to be regressed from differentiated to undifferentiated cellsuntil now.

University of Colorado Cancer Center researcher Chuan-Yuan Li, PhD, and his group have discovered that so-called "grim-reaper" caspase genes are the gatekeepers that can open the door to allow differentiated adult cells to regress to undifferentiated iPSCs.

"By doing experiments in which we added caspase inhibitor genes to the Yaminaka protocol, we discovered that when caspases are turned off, you cannot make IPSCs," says Li, professor of radiation oncology at the University of Colorado School of Medicine. "We were able to shut down the process almost completely."

The discovery is the cover article in the Oct. 8, 2010 issue of Cell Stem Cell.

"For practical reasons, the discovery is important because even though the transformation to iPSCs is a straightforward process on surface, it is not very efficient, and this information can help increase efficiency," Li says. "It can also help with the problem of cells that don't complete the transformation process acting like cancer cells. And from a purely scientific perspective, it is fascinating to understand why the magic happens."

Li's group had been w
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Contact: David Kelly
david.kelly@ucdenver.edu
303-315-6374
University of Colorado Denver
Source:Eurekalert

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