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
How brains surrender to sleep
23.06.2017 | IMP - Forschungsinstitut für Molekulare Pathologie GmbH
A new technique isolates neuronal activity during memory consolidation
22.06.2017 | Spanish National Research Council (CSIC)
An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.
Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...
Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.
Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...
Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.
As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...
Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.
With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...
Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine
Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...
19.06.2017 | Event News
13.06.2017 | Event News
13.06.2017 | Event News
23.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
23.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
23.06.2017 | Information Technology