New technique removes several hurdles in generating induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells, smoothing the way for disease research and drug development.
Stem cells are ideal tools to understand disease and develop new treatments; however, they can be difficult to obtain in necessary quantities. In particular, generating induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells can be an arduous task because reprogramming differentiated adult skin cells into iPS cells requires many steps and the efficiency is very low – researchers might end up with only a few iPS cells even if they started with a million skin cells.
A team at Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute (Sanford-Burnham) set out to improve this process. In a paper published February 1 in The EMBO Journal, the team identified several specific microRNAs (miRNAs) that are important during reprogramming and exploited them to make the transition from skin cell to iPS cell more efficient.
“We identified several molecular barriers early in the reprogramming process and figured out how to remove them using miRNA,” said Tariq Rana, Ph.D., director of the RNA Biology program at Sanford-Burnham and senior author of the study. “This is significant because it will enhance our ability to use iPS cells to model diseases in the laboratory and search for new therapies.”