The 29th January edition of the Guardian reports that a radical and remarkably easy way to make cells that can grow into any tissue in the body has been developed by scientists in Japan. The feat has been hailed as a major discovery by researchers familiar with the work, and if it can be repeated in human tissue, could lead to cheap and simple procedures to make patient-matched stem cells that could repair damaged or diseased organs.
In a series of experiments, researchers showed that cells from animals could be turned into stem cells simply by immersing them in a mildly acidic solution for half an hour. To demonstrate the potential of the cells, the scientists injected them into mouse embryos and showed that they grew into tissues and organs throughout the animals’ bodies. The new process has been called stimulus-triggered acquisition of pluripotency (STAP) and the resultant cells, STAP cells.
Haruko Obokata at the Riken lab in Kobe, Japan, told the Guardian that her team had created several dozen mice that had tissues grown from the cells, and had followed their health for one to two years. “So far they appear to be healthy, fertile, and normal,” she said.
The work is reported in two papers published in the journal Nature:
Bidirectional developmental potential in reprogrammed cells with acquired pluripotency (Nature 505, 676–680, 30 January 2014)
Stimulus-triggered fate conversion of somatic cells into pluripotency (Nature 505, 641–647, 30 January 2014)