Beating Heart Cells Made Directly from Adult Skin Cells in Mice
January 31, 2011 5:02 PM
Heart muscle cells created directly from adult skin cells
(Source: The Scripps Research Institute)
Improved direct reprogramming strategy skips the iPS stage and converts adult skin cells directly into beating heart cells
Scientists from the
Scripps Research Institute
have successfully transformed adult skin cells into beating heart cells in mice without having to produce stem cells first.
Sheng Ding, Ph.D., study leader and a Scripps Research associate professor, along with a team of researchers from both the Scripps Research Institute and the University of California - San Diego, have
converted adult skin cells
into beating heart cells without having to first create embryonic-like stem cells, which is a difficult and time-consuming process.
Through a process called differentiation, embryonic-like stem cells multiply and alter themselves into mature cell types as the body develops. This process creates the body's various tissues and cell types, and when the embryonic stage is over, the body has a restricted capacity for new producing new cells when others have been
damaged or lost
. A team of Japanese researchers accomplished this when they reprogrammed mouse skin cells to be pluripotent through the placement of four genes into the cells. But generating these new cells, which are induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells, is a whole different story.
To create iPS cells from skin cells, it takes two to four weeks. Out of the thousands of cells created, only one usually makes it through the transformation. Then the iPS cells have to be induced to differentiate, which takes another two to four weeks. Even when the iPS cells are made and induced, researchers are skeptical about using them because they can harmful. For example, when inducing iPS cells with heart cells, the end result is a combination of the two, which has caused growths that resemble cancerous tumors in mice.
To remedy all this stress and worry, Ding and his team decided to skip the iPS stage completely and find a way to transform adult skin cells directly into
beating heart cells
. To do this, they took the four genes that Japanese researchers used to make iPS cells convert into adult skin cells and switched their activity off instead of letting them be continuously active. The genes were turned on for only a few days, and once researchers turned their activity off, the cells were given a signal to make them transform into beating heart cells.
"It is like launching a rocket," said Ding. "Until now, people thought you needed to first land the rocket on the moon and then from there you could go to other planets. But here we show that just after the launch you can redirect the rocket to another planet without having to first go to the moon. This is a totally new paradigm."
Ding mentioned that it took only 11 days to turn these skin cells into beating heart cells, and that the signal can be used to turn the cells into brain or pancreatic cells as well.
"This work represents a new paradigm in
stem cell reprogramming
," said Ding. "We hope it helps overcome major safety and other technical hurdles currently associated with some types of stem cell therapies."
was published in
Nature Cell Biology
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