Print 23 comment(s) - last by geddarkstorm.. on Nov 10 at 2:55 AM

Research could help those with cancer or anemia

McMaster University researchers from Hamilton, Ontario have found a way to create blood directly from skin without having to change a skin stem cell into a pluripotent stem cell. 

Dr. Mick Bhatia, study leader and scientific director of McMaster's Stem Cell and Cancer Research Institute in the Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine, along with his team, have created blood directly from human skin in an effort to treat medical conditions such as anemia and cancer. The new technique can also use the blood in surgery from the patients' own skin without having to perform the intermediate step of transforming a human skin cell into a pluripotent stem cell

To do this, Bhatia and his team obtained skin fibroblasts, which is a type of cell that gives skin its form through the "scaffolding" of connective tissues. Once the skin fibroblasts were taken from volunteers, researchers then inserted the gene for OCT4 into the cells using a virus, and grew them in an "infusion of cytokines," which are signaling proteins that stimulate the immune system and communicate between cells. Usually, researchers have to transform a skin stem cell into a pluripotent stem cell before turning it into a blood stem cell, but this new research eliminates the middle step and converts skin cells directly into blood cells. 

"Bhatia's approach detours around the pluripotent stem cell stage and thus avoids many safety issues, increases efficiency, and also has the major benefit of producing adult-type l blood cells instead of fetal blood cells, a major advantage compared to the thus far disappointing attempts to produce blood cells from human ESCs [embryonic stem cells] or IPSCs [induced pluripotent stem cells]," said Cynthia Dunbar, head of the Molecular Hematopoiesis Section of the Hematology Branch of the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute in the National Institutes of Health in the United States.  

Bhatia and his team worked on the study for two years. It is the first study to show direct conversion to a stem cell, and also the first to show direct conversion from skin cells to other types of human cells. Bhatia's study used young and old volunteers to show that age did not matter in the study.

"We have shown this works using human skin," said Bhatia. "We'll now go on to work on developing other types of human cell types from skin, as we already have encouraging evidence."

This study was published in Nature on November 7. 

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Adult Stem Cells....
By tng on 11/8/2010 2:25:31 PM , Rating: 4

After all of the Left out there telling us how embryonic stem cells were going to change the world, it seems that they really wont, but the adult type may.

Although I will say that the research needs to be done on both types, there is allot of money that should be put towards adult stem cell research that is probably wasted on embryonic stem cell research.

RE: Adult Stem Cells....
By morphologia on 11/8/2010 2:43:33 PM , Rating: 3
Once again, someone is somewhat stubbornly ignoring the point that has been made numerous times...

"The Left," as you put it, takes a stance of preventing efforts to limit or ban the research...not so much direct advocacy of a method, more like preventing "The Right" from pandering to their constituency by removing options in the name of morality. It's silly because all "The Right" is really doing that way is putting the embryos into the trash instead of into the lab.

That's the point that "The Right" tends to miss, whether deliberately or by means of limited understanding: it is less of a matter of advocating in favor, and more of a matter of preventing the limiting of our options due to blind vote-pandering. More options means more chances of success.

RE: Adult Stem Cells....
By Kurz on 11/8/2010 6:24:03 PM , Rating: 2
I am from the extreme right and I am all for liberty in all shapes and forms.
Though I find that the liberty of the mother supersedes the liberties of the fetus.

RE: Adult Stem Cells....
By Reclaimer77 on 11/9/2010 9:21:23 AM , Rating: 3
I am from the extreme right and I am all for liberty in all shapes and forms. Though I find that the liberty of the mother supersedes the liberties of the fetus.

Interesting. How extreme right are we talking here?

Unless medical danger is posed to the mother, I don't see how having a child is a "liberties" issue. And let's be honest, a great many abortions take place when the "fetus" is nearly fully developed. A living breathing human being that would otherwise go on to, potentially, have the same full life that others enjoy. This idea that you are inhuman property before you are born is offensive to me, and medically incorrect. Does calling a child a fetus help us cope with the fact that we are murdering human beings?

But Liberties don't work that way. I don't see how someone can be "extreme right" and believe that someone has to die, giving up his liberties, so that someone else can have the "liberty" of not going through childbirth. If you believe that the child has any liberties at all, then you would naturally arrive at the conclusion that those liberties are being wholesale swept aside. Thus, it had no liberties in the first place. Paradox.

RE: Adult Stem Cells....
By KCjoker on 11/8/2010 7:34:40 PM , Rating: 2
All I ever hear from the left is about embryonic stem cells obtained from a fetus. When the whole issue could be solved by getting embryonic stem cells from umbilical cords. It's true the right doesn't want embronic stem cells because they're against abortion. Just as the left doesn't want any limits because they don't want abortion rights limited. Of those two choices I'll have to side with the right on this one.

RE: Adult Stem Cells....
By Reclaimer77 on 11/9/2010 9:08:16 AM , Rating: 2
"The Right" isn't saying that at all. You can research it all you want, and if there really IS such amazing progress to be made, why do you need government funding in the first place? I think the only ones trying to make this a hot-button issue is the media and the Democrats. They make it seem as if researchers were on the precipice of a breakthrough, when evil science hating Bush and his lackeys came along and shut down research. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Vote pandering? Come now, do you really think "The Left" gives a damn about stim cell research? The very party that has consistently voted to make medical research more expensive and less profitable. Not to mention the potentially devastating effects that Obama Care will have on the medical research field.

I could respect the point you were trying to make if you could at least acknowledge that perhaps BOTH sides were trying to buy votes. But no you, typically, take the easy way out and bash Republicans.

I don't know why we're talking about this anyway. "The Right" hasn't been in power in 3 years. Surely by now Obama, with his huge majority up until now, has righted all the wrongs of those pesky Republicans. Right?

RE: Adult Stem Cells....
By postalbob on 11/10/2010 2:48:09 AM , Rating: 2
Once again a swing and a miss by someone who tries to state that all issues are partisan politics, in order to fit in with the crowd. Let me educate you.

In this case you miss something important: Conservatives are against PUBLIC funding and tax dollars to moral issues, aka embryonic stem cell research.

Liberals love determining what is and is not a moral issue all the time with public funding to start a flame war. The bottom line is that PUBLIC dollars is the issue. In an interesting side note to show you something about left pundits: Obama cut funding for adult stem cell research to nothing. He effectively ended it. Politics as usual.

Get your facts straight before you go through the usual attempt to state both side's ideals being "equal" in some crazy way, while clearly taking more swings at the right's "extreme" views than the left political agenda in extreme secularism.

RE: Adult Stem Cells....
By geddarkstorm on 11/10/2010 2:55:44 AM , Rating: 2
This is one clear cases where embryonic is straight up not going to likely work. Why? Because embryonic has a completely different type of hemoglobin set (hemoglobin zeta, epsilon, and gamma) than adult blood cells (the type you start to transition prior to and after birth). Consequently, they don't work the same, and there's lethal disorders out there were a person doesn't switch from the embryonic hemoglobin to the adult correctly.

By Breathless on 11/8/2010 1:31:55 PM , Rating: 5
They need to kick this shizzle bizzle into high gear so that people like my wife who have bone marrow diseases can avoid the bone marrow transplant route :)

RE: Sweet
By excrucio on 11/8/2010 2:20:52 PM , Rating: 2
Sorry to hear that, but luckily we live in the 21st century. Where technological advances are strong. Soon, very soon. ;)

RE: Sweet
By MrBlastman on 11/8/2010 3:00:17 PM , Rating: 2
I wish your wife the best. If she ends up going the transplant route, have her avoid any liver biopsies after it--it is what got someone near to my family, tragically.

I think therapies like in this article are wonderful for people who otherwise would face such mountainous procedures to give them a shot at survival.

RE: Sweet
By Breathless on 11/8/2010 3:22:27 PM , Rating: 2
Thanks dudes. The problem is that most people with her condition that receive the transplant end up dying from it (the transplant). The radiation regiment that is necessary to kill off the bad cells is general too much for them to handle. Time is of the essence because 30 years of age is the average time that she is expected to get marrow failure. We are currently trying to raise her platelets through natural means without having to resort to harsh steroids.

I like the concept...
By MrBlastman on 11/8/2010 2:58:13 PM , Rating: 2
But I can't help but think of a more sinister use for this technology. Apparently they use a virus to inject a gene to cause the skin cells to mutate from skin to blood cells...

Think about it... What if they were to pass that virus out to unsuspecting populations. It's like ebola, but better.

Now, I'm sure there's a lot more to the process but still, it was a neat but despicable thought.

RE: I like the concept...
By guffwd13 on 11/8/2010 4:51:06 PM , Rating: 1
ok, so i defer to my gf on all things medical (she's the phd in the fam.), but i do know that the practice of using viruses to infect other cells with specific (grafted DNA) is extremely common and completely safe.

the virus is engineered and completely harmless if it were ever to "get out" because its designed only for the exact procedure. in other words, it would be impossible for the virus to do anything outside the experiment and if it were to randomly mutate would render it dead (assuming one considered viruses living).

so no worries - most future diseases will require a virus or other biological device to deliver the cure.

RE: I like the concept...
By guffwd13 on 11/8/2010 5:07:21 PM , Rating: 1
from her. take from it what you can:

the reason it's called a virus is because it came from one - likely adenovirus but possibly others... they take all the dna that causes the virus to infect and replicate out of itself and replace it with dna for the desired protein- in this care the proteins that induce blood cell formation, thus using the virus machinery for our own purposes. it's quite excuisite

yeah... she's perty smart.

RE: I like the concept...
By jimhsu on 11/8/2010 5:12:54 PM , Rating: 2
This is actually a concern, though not in the sense alluded to here.

Retroviral gene expression in this case (OCT4, a well known proliferation signal for stem cells) is comprised of completely safe DNA (i.e. they aren't using oncogenic markers like c-Myc), and the virus payload is gone, so no crazy replicating viruses. HOWEVER, retroviruses aren't perfectionists when it comes to actually inserting their piece of DNA somewhere safe on your 3 billion plus letter genome. After all, they were designed to infect as many cells as possible, not perform precise surgery. "Most" (99%) of the time, it'll get inserted in some junk region of human DNA, but some of the time, it could be inserted into a functional gene, or even worse, an important tumor suppressor gene on your genome. If that happens ... well, you have all sorts of nasty problems like cancer to deal with.

HENCE, the reason they are looking for more specific vectors and non-retroviral approaches (i.e. plasmid transfection). As someone in the periphery of the field though, I can tell you that the efficiency of all non-retroviral approaches frankly sucks right now.

RE: I like the concept...
By jimhsu on 11/8/2010 5:20:21 PM , Rating: 2
To elaborate a bit more - recently (last few years), there has been work on making retrovirus integration more specific (wikipedia mentions zinc finger nucleases and beta-globin locus control regions), but perfecting it is still an emerging science. provides a decent overview of the field.

Ridiculous Spin
By HeavyB on 11/8/2010 2:25:25 PM , Rating: 2
Using an integrating virus to express a dedifferentiation gene (Oct4) to "avoid(s) many safety issues" is blatantly incorrect. This exact technical issues is why current 1st generation iPS technologies are not "safe" for therapeutics. Gotta love the spin.

RE: Ridiculous Spin
By jimhsu on 11/8/2010 10:45:51 PM , Rating: 2
Exactly, but do look at the advances in retroviral therapy in the last few years. Approaches like coupling zinc finger proteins to the integrases could potentially reduce the risk of random integration, and thus tumorigenicity. Still too preliminary though.

By jimhsu on 11/8/2010 2:08:56 PM , Rating: 2
Article is not very clear - you can't (not that I know of) change a fibroblast DIRECTLY into an erythrocyte (red blood cell). What the paper did was to convert the fibroblast into a form of stem cell called a hematopoietic or blood progenitor cell, which is multipotent, not pluripotent. This avoids certain complications associated with pluripotent cells but more importantly greatly increases efficiency, which is sorely needed in the field now.

By Queonda on 11/8/2010 7:43:01 PM , Rating: 2
I can't help but imagine skin cells being transformed into blood, then leaking out through the epidermis where the skin cells used to be...

By bentheman939 on 11/8/2010 9:05:57 PM , Rating: 2
I'm a PhD candidate in Bhatia's lab. Its great to see this work on daily tech. I didn't think it would make it out of the local paper! Very exciting!

By cruisin3style on 11/9/2010 3:11:10 PM , Rating: 2
Skin cells are shed normally anyway, but I'm against this on moral grounds...

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