Boston, Mass., Oct 1, 2010 / 05:03 am America/Denver (CNA).
In what one expert calls a “major paper,” researchers have reported new advances in creating efficient and safe alternatives to human embryonic stem cells.
A team led by Derrick J. Rossi of the Children’s Hospital Boston used laboratory-made versions of natural biological signals to quickly convert ordinary skin cells into cells that appear virtually identical to embryonic stem cells. They can then coax these cells to change into specific tissues that would be a match for transplantation into patients, the Washington Post reports.
Douglas A. Melton, co-director of the Harvard Stem Cell Institute, said the research produced a “major paper” in the field of regenerative medicine.
Previous research pioneered in 2006 involved the creation of induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells by activating four genes. However, the process involved inserting genes into cells using retroviruses, which raised the risk the cells could cause cancer.
The new approach involves the use of messenger RNA (mRNA). According to the Washington Post, the DNA inside cells use mRNA to create proteins needed to perform various vital functions. The researchers created mRNA molecules carrying instructions to tell the cell’s machinery to produce the four key proteins needed to reprogram the cell into an iPS cell.