Findings bring researchers closer to developing clinical trials, treating human diseases

In 2008, UCLA researchers announced that they had begun using animal trials to develop programmable stem cells. Now, scientists in Australia have announced that they have "reprogrammed" adult mouse fat cells and neural cells into stem cells that could be used in clinical trials for humans. 

Researchers at the Monash Institute of Medical Research developed induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS) that can differentiate into a variety of different cells.  Induced pluripotent stem cells, are believed to be identical to natural pluripotent stem cells, but have been developed by a "forced" expression of certain genes (cloning).  Natural pluripotent stem cells, such as embryonic stem cells, are in short supply and their access is restricted in the U.S., according to

"Induced pluripotent stem cells have revolutionized cell reprogramming," said Dr. Paul J. Verma, lead author of the study. "One challenge is to find the most appropriate cell for reprogramming. Our study demonstrated that both neural stem cells (NSCs) and adipose tissue-derived cells (ADCs) from adult mice expressed genetic pluripotency and could differentiate into the three germ layers, endoderm, mesoderm and ectoderm. The ADCs were the most amenable to reprogramming."

Verma added that iPS cells have been shown to have many of the hallmarks of embryonic stem cells.  Verma's team discovered while conducting the study that choosing which cells were best for reprogramming required looking at the ease of access and ease of derivation and growth of the cells in vitro.   They determined that it was likely that certain iPS cell lines will have a "higher propensity to differentiate into certain lineages (cell types)," according to Verma.

The research team concluded that ADCs represent a more clinically relevant cell type and that fat tissue can be easily accessed and grown easily and rapidly in cultures.  Their findings have been published in the journal 
Cell Transplantation.

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