Researchers have found an efficient way to make stem cells from a patient’s blood sample, igniting possibility that this discovery could pave way for treating several conditions such as heart diseases.
Scientists from University of Cambridge grew a patient’s blood in a laboratory and isolated the special cell that can be kept long term. Researchers said that the special cells can be turned into induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells. Induced pluripotent stem cells, as defined in Stem Cell Information, are “adult stem cells that have been genetically reprogrammed to an embryonic stem cell–like state by being forced to express genes and factors important for maintaining the defining properties of embryonic stem cells.” In other words, iPS can be turned into any other cell in the body, including heart cells or blood vessel cells by using different cocktail of chemicals.
Induced pluripotent stem cells are useful in researchers to study disease and could be used to grow tissues to repair the damage brought about by conditions such as heart and circulatory diseases.
Before, scientists make iPS cells from skin or other tissues because it is hard to find an appropriate type of cell in the blood that can be turned into iPS. But now that it is found possible to get cells from blood, scientists see this as a patient-friendly way because it won’t require surgical operation anymore.
Lead Researcher Dr. Amer Rana revealed their excitement in developing a practical and efficient method to produce stem cells from a cell type found in blood. This would be ideal and convenient for every patient because they are taking blood samples from them anyway. No tissue biopsies are required; hence, saving children and elderly the pain of going through operations.
In the article from The Telegraph, Dr. Rana said they “wanted to take a methodology, which could really take the stem cell technology … into the clinic in a practical way. The ultimate aim is to grow tissue … which we can use in replacement therapies, that would be ideal”.
The whole blood stem cell discovery is promising, but this cannot be used on humans yet as the technology is still early on.
Shannon Amoils, Research Advisor of British Heart Foundation said that while iPS cells offer great potential, there are still many obstacles to overcome before this type of technology could be used to treat patients.
Right now, stem cells remain to be one of the great hopes of medical research as they can repair everything in the body. Stem cells are biological cells that have the ability to divide and differentiate into diverse specialized cell types and can self-renew to generate more stem cells.
The study, which is funded by the Medical Research Council, British Heart Foundation and Wellcome Trust, is published in the journal “Stem cell: Translational Medicine”.
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