Waiting to Reprogram Your Cells? Don’t Hold Your Breath

Waiting to Reprogram Your Cells? Don’t Hold Your Breath

This is the stuff from which the cartilage was grown: induced pluripotent stem cells, often called #iPS cells. Guiding a recent tour of a Kyoto University lab, a staff member holds up a transparent container. Inside are tiny pale spheres, no bigger than peas, floating in a clear liquid. “This is cartilage,” explains the guide, Hiroyuki Wadahama. “It was made here from human iPS cells.”

A monitor attached to a nearby microscope shows a mass of pink and purple dots. This is the stuff from which the cartilage was grown: induced pluripotent stem cells, often called iPS cells. Scientists can create these seemingly magical cells from any cell in the body by introducing four genes, in essence turning back the cellular clock to an immature, nonspecialized state. The term “pluripotent” refers to the fact iPS cells can be “reprogrammed” to become any type of cell, from skin to liver to nerve cells. In this way they act like embryonic stem cells (#SC) and share their revolutionary therapeutic potential—and as such, they could eliminate the need for using and then destroying human embryos. Also, iPS cells can proliferate infinitely.
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