Reprogramming a patient's eye cells may herald new treatments against degenerative disease

Oct 22, 2009

Scientists have overcome a key barrier to the clinical use of stem cells with a technique which transforms regular body cells into artificial stem cells without the need for introducing foreign genetic materials, which could be potentially harmful. The research, published in Stem Cells, suggests that cells taken from a patient's eye can be "reprogrammed" to replace or restore cells lost to degenerative diseases.

The research, led by Professor Iqbal Ahmad and co-authors from the University of Nebraska Medical Center, is the first proof in principle that somatic, or body cells, can be reprogrammed into induced pluripotent (iPSCs) simply through the influence of the microenvironment in which the sampled cells are cultured. Until now genetic materials were introduced into somatic cells to re-programme them to become pluripotent, enabling them to generate cells of all three embryonic lineages.

"Our findings provide evidence for an emerging view that somatic cells may be reprogrammed safely and simply by defined chemicals and other factors, which may facilitate their clinical use," said Ahmad. "The next step is to know how robust the reprogramming is and what existed within the microenvironment to cause it."

The team sampled progenitor eye cells, which regenerate the eye's cornea, from laboratory rats. By reprogramming them to resemble stem cells they acquired the properties necessary to replace or restore neurons, cardiomyocytes, and hepatocytes, cell types which are degenerated in Parkinson's disease, heart disease, and .

This reprogramming technique may allow 'autologous cell transplantation', where the donor of the cells is also the recipient. This is preferable to using cells from another person which may cause the patient's immune system to reject the transplanted cells.

Also, because this technique involves the use of iPSCs derived from adult and not (ES) it side steps many of the ethical dilemmas which have embroiled stem cell research.

"This research shows that it is possible to take cells from a patient's eye without affecting vision and reprogram them for use in autologous cell therapy to replace or rescue degenerating cells," concluded Ahmad, "this would allow us to circumvent ethical issues and the problems caused by the immune system rejecting foreign cells."

Source: Wiley (news : web)

Explore further: Heaven scent: Finding may help restore fragrance to roses

Related Stories

New technique produces genetically identical stem cells

Jul 01, 2008

Adult cells of mice created from genetically reprogrammed cells—so-called induced pluripotent stem (IPS) stem cells—can be triggered via drug to enter an embryonic-stem-cell-like state, without the need for further genetic ...

Recommended for you

Study on pesticides in lab rat feed causes a stir

Jul 02, 2015

French scientists published evidence Thursday of pesticide contamination of lab rat feed which they said discredited historic toxicity studies, though commentators questioned the analysis.

International consortium to study plant fertility evolution

Jul 02, 2015

Mark Johnson, associate professor of biology, has joined a consortium of seven other researchers in four European countries to develop the fullest understanding yet of how fertilization evolved in flowering plants. The research, ...

Making the biofuels process safer for microbes

Jul 02, 2015

A team of investigators at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Michigan State University have created a process for making the work environment less toxic—literally—for the organisms that do the heavy ...

Why GM food is so hard to sell to a wary public

Jul 02, 2015

Whether commanding the attention of rock star Neil Young or apparently being supported by the former head of Greenpeace, genetically modified food is almost always in the news – and often in a negative ...

The hidden treasure in RNA-seq

Jul 01, 2015

Michael Stadler and his team at the Friedrich Miescher institute for Biomedical Research (FMI) have developed a novel computational approach to analyze RNA-seq data. By comparing intronic and exonic RNA reads, ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

fixer
not rated yet Oct 23, 2009
All research to help the blind is good.
Will this also tie in with Mac D & Ret Pigmentosa stem cell research also reported hereabouts?

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.