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Pig-induced pluripotent stem cells may be safer than previously thought
Date:12/9/2011

Athens, Ga. Pig stem cell research conducted by two animal scientists at the University of Georgia reveals a better way to determine the safety of future stem cell therapies than rodent-based models.

Rodent studies are likely inadequate for testing many human therapiesincluding pharmaceuticalssince 50 percent of all chemicals test positive as carcinogens in rodents regardless of their source or identity, according to Thomas Hartung, a professor in the Bloomsburg College of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University. He suggests these rodent studies may be no better than a coin toss. For example, some components in coffee appear to be carcinogenic in rodents, but in humans moderate coffee consumption may reduce the risk of cancer.

In 2010, UGA faculty Steve Stice and Franklin West introduced 13 pigs that have shown promise in unlocking the path to new therapies. The pigs recently produced another positive finding: These adult-cell-sourced stem cells don't form tumors in pigs.

"Pluripotent stem cells have significant potential for stem cell therapies," said West, an animal science researcher and assistant professor in the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. "However, tests in mice often resulted in tumor formation that frequently led to death."

The formation of tumors has raised concerns about the safety of induced pluripotent stem cells, or iPSCs, and cells derived from these stem cells. Until now, all iPSC safety studies have been performed in rodent models.

"To address the concern, our research team studied tumor formation in pigs generated from pig iPSCs," West said. "Brain, skin, liver, pancreas, stomach, intestine, lung, heart, kidney, muscle, spleen and gonad tissues from all 11 pigs tested showed no evidence of tumors."

The absence of tumor formation in these pigs suggests that iPSCs can safely incorporate into tissues without tumor formation.

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Contact: Franklin West
westf@uga.edu
706-542-0988
University of Georgia
Source:Eurekalert

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