It was only Friday when we lamented that “…testicles could be a new source for viable non-embryonic stem cells” which took us to “…testicular biopsies” and, well, there must be another way. Thankfully science moves at a break-neck pace and we at Medgadget are happy to have tracked down this advancement so quickly.
In the past year, several teams of scientists have reported finding a handful of genes that can transform ordinary skin cells into iPS cells, which look and act like embryonic stem cells.
To get these genes into the cells, they have had to use retroviruses, which integrate their own genetic material into the cells they infect. This can be dangerous and can cause tumors and perhaps other effects.
Last month U.S. researchers did the same thing using a harmless virus called an adenovirus, but the method was not efficient. And last week, Shinya Yamanaka of Kyoto University in Japan, who discovered iPS cells in mice, used a loop of genetic material called a plasmid to reformat the cells.
Huangfu tried treating the cells first with valproic acid. After she did this, it only took two of the four usual genes to reprogram the cells into iPS cells, she reported.
This is good because the other two genes usually needed can promote cancer.
The Melton team used retroviruses to carry the two genes in but suggest they might not be necessary.
Huangfu said the valproic acid unraveled the chromatin — the physical structure of the chromosomes — making it possible to get in and alter the DNA more easily.
More from Reuters…
Press release: Chemical found to simplify production of stem cells; Harvard team hopes technique cuts tumor risk
Friday’s Medgadget article: Testicles May Be New Source of Stem Cells