Transforming skin cells into stem cells using a molecular toolkit

Feb 18, 2010

In an effort to sidestep the ethical dilemma involved in using human embryonic stem cells to treat diseases, scientists are developing non-controversial alternatives: In particular, they are looking for drug-like chemical compounds that can transform adult skin cells into the stem cells now obtained from human embryos. That's the topic of a fascinating article in Chemical & Engineering News (C&EN), ACS' weekly newsmagazine.

C&EN Associate Editor Sarah Everts notes that in 2006, researchers in Japan figured out a way to use genetic engineering to coax a skin cell to become a so-called "pluripotent" stem cell — a type of cell that can potentially morph or change into any cell of the human body. The scientists achieved the result by infecting the skin cell with a virus containing certain genes instructing the cell to change.

Now chemists are trying to reproduce this cellular alchemy with drug-like substances because gene therapies have faced trouble getting into the clinic. Scientists are looking for chemical ways to go backward in cell development — to reprogram mature cells into stem cells. Others are trying to identify substances that can morph one cell directly into other cell types — for example, from a skin cell directly into a nerve cell that might treat Parkinson's disease — without the use of at all. The ultimate goal is to be able to reprogram any cell of the body into another by means of a simple molecular kit, the article notes. But as chemists start putting together toolkits with these drug-like molecules, they face many technical hurdles as well as challenges getting acceptance from the stem cell community.

Explore further: New tool identifies therapeutic proteins in a 'snap'

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Study: Skin cells turned into stem cells

Aug 22, 2005

The controversy over embryonic stem cell research may become moot with a procedure that turns skin cells into what appear to be embryonic stem cells.

Man behind stem cell war may be peacemaker

Nov 23, 2007

The U.S. researcher who set off controversy by taking stem cells from human embryos may have quieted critics by creating a stem cell without using an embryo.

Recommended for you

New tool identifies therapeutic proteins in a 'snap'

16 hours ago

(Phys.org) —In human and bacterial cells, glycosylation – the chemical process of attaching complex sugar molecules to proteins – is as fundamental as it gets, affecting every biological mechanism from cell signaling ...

Treating pain by blocking the 'chili-pepper receptor'

Aug 20, 2014

Biting into a chili pepper causes a burning spiciness that is irresistible to some, but intolerable to others. Scientists exploring the chili pepper's effect are using their findings to develop a new drug ...

Moving single cells around—accurately and cheaply

Aug 19, 2014

Scientists at the Houston Methodist Research Institute have figured out how to pick up and transfer single cells using a pipette—a common laboratory tool that's been tweaked slightly. They describe this ...

The difficult question of Clostridium difficile

Aug 19, 2014

The bacterium Clostridium difficile causes antibiotic-related diarrhoea and is a growing problem in the hospital environment and elsewhere in the community. Understanding how the microbe colonises the hu ...

User comments : 0