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
Repairing damaged hearts with self-healing heart cells
22.08.2017 | National University Health System
Biochemical 'fingerprints' reveal diabetes progression
22.08.2017 | Umea University
Whether you call it effervescent, fizzy, or sparkling, carbonated water is making a comeback as a beverage. Aside from quenching thirst, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have discovered a new use for these "bubbly" concoctions that will have major impact on the manufacturer of the world's thinnest, flattest, and one most useful materials -- graphene.
As graphene's popularity grows as an advanced "wonder" material, the speed and quality at which it can be manufactured will be paramount. With that in mind,...
Physicists at the University of Bonn have managed to create optical hollows and more complex patterns into which the light of a Bose-Einstein condensate flows. The creation of such highly low-loss structures for light is a prerequisite for complex light circuits, such as for quantum information processing for a new generation of computers. The researchers are now presenting their results in the journal Nature Photonics.
Light particles (photons) occur as tiny, indivisible portions. Many thousands of these light portions can be merged to form a single super-photon if they are...
For the first time, scientists have shown that circular RNA is linked to brain function. When a RNA molecule called Cdr1as was deleted from the genome of mice, the animals had problems filtering out unnecessary information – like patients suffering from neuropsychiatric disorders.
While hundreds of circular RNAs (circRNAs) are abundant in mammalian brains, one big question has remained unanswered: What are they actually good for? In the...
An experimental small satellite has successfully collected and delivered data on a key measurement for predicting changes in Earth's climate.
The Radiometer Assessment using Vertically Aligned Nanotubes (RAVAN) CubeSat was launched into low-Earth orbit on Nov. 11, 2016, in order to test new...
A study led by scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg presents evidence of the coexistence of superconductivity and “charge-density-waves” in compounds of the poorly-studied family of bismuthates. This observation opens up new perspectives for a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of high-temperature superconductivity, a topic which is at the core of condensed matter research since more than 30 years. The paper by Nicoletti et al has been published in the PNAS.
Since the beginning of the 20th century, superconductivity had been observed in some metals at temperatures only a few degrees above the absolute zero (minus...
16.08.2017 | Event News
04.08.2017 | Event News
26.07.2017 | Event News
22.08.2017 | Health and Medicine
22.08.2017 | Materials Sciences
22.08.2017 | Life Sciences