Scientists create therapy-grade stem cells using new cocktail to reprogram adult cells

September 16, 2014
Stem cells
Stem cells. Credit: Nissim Benvenisty - Wikipedia

Researchers at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem have developed a new cocktail that is highly effective at coaxing adult cells to become quality pluripotent stem cells.

Regenerative medicine is a new and expanding area that aims to replace lost or damaged , tissues or organs through cellular transplantation. Because derived from human embryos can trigger ethical concerns, a good solution is reprogramming back to an embryo-like state using a combination of reprogramming factors.

The resulting cells, called induced (iPSCs), could be used to replace those lost to damage or disease. However, scientists have discovered that the process of reprogramming adult cells can introduce genetic abnormalities that limit the cells' usefulness in research and medicine.

To make iPSCs, scientists expose adult cells to a cocktail of genes that are active in . iPSCs can then be coaxed to differentiate into other cell types such as nerve or muscle. However, the standard combination of factors used to reprogram cells leads to a high percentage of serious genomic aberrations in the resulting cells. (The reprogramming factors are Oct4, Sox2, Klf4, and Myc—known collectively as OSKM).

Now researchers at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem have developed a new cocktail of reprogramming factors that produce high-quality iPSCs. Dr. Yosef Buganim, at the Institute for Medical Research Israel-Canada in the Hebrew University's Faculty of Medicine, worked with scientists at the lab of Whitehead Institute founding member Rudolf Jaenisch, a professor of biology at MIT.

The researchers reasoned that changing the reprogramming factors could reprogram the adult cells in a more controlled way and yield high-quality iPSCs. Working with , Dr. Buganim and research scientist Styliani Markoulaki used bioinformatic analysis to design a new cocktail of reprogramming factors (Sall4, Nanog, Esrrb, and Lin28, known collectively as SNEL).

Their results showed that the interaction between reprogramming factors plays a crucial role in determining the quantity and quality of resulting iPSCs—and that a different combination of reprogramming factors can in fact produce a much higher quality product.

The new SNEL cocktail created fewer colonies of iPSCs, but approximately 80% of those produced passed the most stringent pluripotency test. This is highly preferable to the traditional OSKM cocktail, which produces a large number of colonies but the majority of which fail the pluripotency test.

Dr. Buganim hypothesizes that SNEL may reprogram cells better than OSKM because it does not rely on the master regulators Oct4 and Sox2, which might activate part of the adult cell genome. According to Buganim, the research demonstrates the effectiveness of bioinformatics tools in producing high quality iPSCs.

This study takes the field one step closer to the clinic, where it may be able to help patients in need of cellular transplantation therapy. The researchers will now seek to define the optimal combinations for human iPSCs, which are harder to reprogram than mouse cells and which could not be reprogrammed using the SNEL cocktail.

Explore further: New reprogramming factor cocktail produces therapy-grade induced pluripotent stem cells

More information: The research paper, "The Developmental Potential of iPSCs Is Greatly Influenced by Reprogramming Factor Selection," appears in the current issue of the journal Cell Stem Cell.

Related Stories

Scientists bring new efficiency to stem cell reprogramming

September 13, 2012

Several years ago, biologists discovered that regular body cells can be reprogrammed into pluripotent stem cells—cells with the ability to become any other type of cell. Such cells hold great promise for treating many human ...

Rethinking reprogramming: A new way to make stem cells

April 7, 2011

A paper published by Cell Press in the April 8th issue of the journal Cell Stem Cell reveals a new and more efficient method for reprogramming adult mouse and human cells into an embryonic stem cell-like state and could lead ...

Recommended for you

The astonishing efficiency of life

November 17, 2017

All life on earth performs computations – and all computations require energy. From single-celled amoeba to multicellular organisms like humans, one of the most basic biological computations common across life is translation: ...

Unexpected finding solves 40-year old cytoskeleton mystery

November 17, 2017

Scientists have been searching for it for decades: the enzyme that cuts the amino acid tyrosine off an important part of the cell's skeleton. Researchers of the Netherlands Cancer Institute have now identified this mystery ...

0 comments

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.