However, a new study published this week (Feb. 15) in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences comparing the ability of induced cells and embryonic cells to morph into the cells of the brain has found that induced cells — even those free of the genetic factors used to program their all-purpose qualities — differentiate less efficiently and faithfully than their embryonic counterparts.
The finding that induced cells are less predictable means there are more kinks to work out before they can be used reliably in a clinical setting, says Su-Chun Zhang, the senior author of the new study and a professor in the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health.
“Embryonic stem cells can pretty much be predicted,” says Zhang. “Induced cells cannot. That means that at this point there is still some work to be done to generate ideal induced pluripotent stem cells for application.”
Scientists in the burgeoning field of regenerative medicine are pinning their hopes on induced stem cells because they offer advantages over embryonic stem cells, not the least of which is the fact that they do not need to be derived from early-stage human embryos.
The new Wisconsin study compared the ability of five embryonic stem cell lines with 12 induced cell lines coaxed into being using different methods. Embryonic stem cells are considered the “gold standard” for all pluripotent stem cells, which are cells that can differentiate into all of the 220 cell types in the human body.
Zhang’s group, led by researcher Baoyang Hu, found that the induced cells differentiate into progenitor neural cells and further into the different kinds of functional neurons that make up the brain. However, that they do not faithfully mirror all the differentiation capabilities of embryonic cells suggests that there are unknown factors at play that may limit their use in terms of modeling disease in the laboratory, one of the most important potential early applications of stem cell technology. Such unknowns would also limit their use in clinical settings for such things as cell transplants.
Intriguingly, the new study suggests the presence or absence of the genes used to reprogram skin cells to become the blank slate pluripotent cells makes no difference in terms of their capacity to differentiate. Some of the induced stem cell lines tested in the study were made using techniques that bypassed the use of genes that had been used to reprogram skin cells to become pluripotent stem cells.
It was predicted, Zhang explains, that the absence of exotic genetic factors would result in cells essentially identical to embryonic stem cells. “It is totally surprising that doesn’t happen at all,” says Zhang. “It tells us the techniques for generating induced pluripotent stem cells are still not optimal. There is room for improvement.”
Despite their unpredictability, Zhang notes that induced stem cells can still be used to make pure populations of specific types of cells, making them useful for some applications such as testing potential new drugs for efficacy and toxicity. He also noted that the limitations identified by his group are technical issues likely to be resolved relatively quickly.
“It appears to be a technical issue,” he says. “Technical things can usually be overcome.”
The key, he explains, is determining what things are at play that make the induced cells different.
The study was carried out with support from the National Institutes of Health and the ALS Association. Also contributing to the study were James Thomson, a UW-Madison professor of anatomy and director of regenerative biology for the Morgridge Institute for Research, and Junying Yu of Cellular Dynamics International.CONTACT: Su-Chun Zhang, 608-265-2543, firstname.lastname@example.org
Terry Devitt | Newswise Science News
Multi-institutional collaboration uncovers how molecular machines assemble
02.12.2016 | Salk Institute
Fertilized egg cells trigger and monitor loss of sperm’s epigenetic memory
02.12.2016 | IMBA - Institut für Molekulare Biotechnologie der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften GmbH
A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.
Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...
In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.
“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...
The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.
The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...
Broadband rotational spectroscopy unravels structural reshaping of isolated molecules in the gas phase to accommodate water
In two recent publications in the Journal of Chemical Physics and in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, researchers around Melanie Schnell from the Max...
The efficiency of power electronic systems is not solely dependent on electrical efficiency but also on weight, for example, in mobile systems. When the weight of relevant components and devices in airplanes, for instance, is reduced, fuel savings can be achieved and correspondingly greenhouse gas emissions decreased. New materials and components based on gallium nitride (GaN) can help to reduce weight and increase the efficiency. With these new materials, power electronic switches can be operated at higher switching frequency, resulting in higher power density and lower material costs.
Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE together with partners have investigated how these materials can be used to make power...
16.11.2016 | Event News
01.11.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
02.12.2016 | Medical Engineering
02.12.2016 | Agricultural and Forestry Science
02.12.2016 | Physics and Astronomy