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Thursday, 27 December 2007 00:55

Reprogramming cells may be as effective as stem cells

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U.S. researchers have found that mature but defective skin cells in mice can be reprogrammed to eliminate sickle-cell anemia. The process may in the future be used to cure diseases in humans instead of using immature stem cells.


Rudolf Jaenisch, associated with the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research (Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States), and fellow researchers inserted four regulating genes (Oct4, Sox2, Lif4, and c-Myc) into the skin of mice so that cell development was reversed, from the adult cells (called induced pluripotent stem [IPS] cells) back to immature (precursor) cells.

The technique called homologous recombination was used to remove the faulty beta-globin gene, which produces sickle-cell anemia. The disease is found in blood marrow, and is caused by this single defective gene.

The scientists then treated the new cells so that they became blood stem cells in order for new types of blood cells to be created and developed.

These precursor cells then were injected back into the bone marrow of the diseased mice. Consequently, the mice with sickle-cell anemia had all of its associated symptoms eliminated within a few days.

Like stem cells from human embryos, the Jaenisch team thinks that these reprogrammed adult cells could one day be used to cure diseases within humans.

This article is based on the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research article (December 6, 2007)  titled “Reprogrammed adult cells treat sickle-cell anemia in mice.”

Along with Rudolf Jaenisch, the researchers included Jacob Hanna, Marius Wernig, Styliani Markoulaki, Chiao-Wang Sun, Alexander Meissner, John P. Cassady, Caroline Beard, Tobias Brambrink, Li-Chen Wu, Tim M. Townes, Rudolf Jaenisch.



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