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. 

Comments     Threshold

This article is over a month old, voting and posting comments is disabled

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.

“And I don't know why [Apple is] acting like it’s superior. I don't even get it. What are they trying to say?” -- Bill Gates on the Mac ads

Latest Headlines

Most Popular ArticlesAre you ready for this ? HyperDrive Aircraft
September 24, 2016, 9:29 AM
Leaked – Samsung S8 is a Dream and a Dream 2
September 25, 2016, 8:00 AM
Yahoo Hacked - Change Your Passwords and Security Info ASAP!
September 23, 2016, 5:45 AM
A is for Apples
September 23, 2016, 5:32 AM
Walmart may get "Robot Shopping Carts?"
September 17, 2016, 6:01 AM

Copyright 2016 DailyTech LLC. - RSS Feed | Advertise | About Us | Ethics | FAQ | Terms, Conditions & Privacy Information | Kristopher Kubicki