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UCSF team closer to creating safe embryonic-like stem cells
Date:4/12/2009

A team of UCSF researchers has for the first time used tiny molecules called microRNAs to help turn adult mouse cells back to their embryonic state. These reprogrammed cells are pluripotent, meaning that, like embryonic stem cells, they have the capacity to become any cell type in the body.

The findings suggest that scientists will soon be able to replace retroviruses and even genes currently used in laboratory experiments to induce pluripotency in adult cells. This would make potential stem cell-based therapies safer by eliminating the risks posed to humans by these DNA-based methods, including alteration of the genome and risk of cancer.

"Using small molecules such as microRNAs to manipulate cells will play a major role in the future of stem cell biology," says senior author Robert Blelloch, MD, PhD, of the Eli and Edythe Broad Center for Regeneration Medicine and Stem Cell Research at UCSF.

Scientists are interested in reprogramming because it would offer a way to create cells that provide a genetic match for individual patients. A patient's skin cells could be reverted to pluripotent cells in the culture dish and then prompted to differentiate into adult cells, such as those of the heart, lung and brain. These cells could then be transplanted into patients, without the fear of rejection.

The study, reported in the April 12, 2009 advanced online edition of the journal "Nature Biotechnology" and scheduled for the May 8, 2009 print issue, used a combination of microRNAs and retrovirus-introduced genes to transform fibroblast cells -- found throughout the body of mice and humans -- into pluripotent cells.

The current finding comes on the heels of a study published by the group in the December 2008 print edition of "Nature Genetics" that showed that microRNAs, which can be synthesized in the lab, encouraged embryonic stem cells to self-replicate, a finding that has implications for replicating stem cells in
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Contact: Jennifer OBrien
jobrien@pubaff.ucsf.edu
415-476-2557
University of California - San Francisco
Source:Eurekalert

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