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: Pterostilbene, a molecule similar to resveratrol, as a potential treatment for obesity

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

Why plants don't get sunburn

Oct 29, 2014

Plants rely on sunlight to make their food, but they also need protection from its harmful rays, just like humans do. Recently, scientists discovered a group of molecules in plants that shields them from ...

Viral switches share a shape

Oct 27, 2014

A hinge in the RNA genome of the virus that causes hepatitis C works like a switch that can be flipped to prevent it from replicating in infected cells. Scientists have discovered that this shape is shared by several other ...

'Sticky' ends start synthetic collagen growth

Oct 27, 2014

Rice University researchers have delivered a scientific one-two punch with a pair of papers that detail how synthetic collagen fibers self-assemble via their sticky ends.

Cell membranes self-assemble

Oct 27, 2014

A self-driven reaction can assemble phospholipid membranes like those that enclose cells, a team of chemists at the University of California, San Diego, reports in Angewandte Chemie.

Emergent behavior lets bubbles 'sense' environment

Oct 27, 2014

Tiny, soapy bubbles can reorganize their membranes to let material flow in and out in response to the surrounding environment, according to new work carried out in an international collaboration by biomedical ...

User comments : 0

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.