Scientists in Melbourne for the first time have created a human stem cell reserve in Australia using a technique that avoids destroying embryos, which was developed in Japan and the United States.
The team from the Monash medical research institute produced an induced pluripotent stem cell line (IpS) that acts like embryonic stem cells, but are derived from adult skin cells. The method used to reprogram adult stem cells developed last year in Japan and the United States allows for the production of IpSs, which are used to study degenerative diseases like Parkinson’s without having to deal with ethical objections.
The use of this technique in Australia is important because until now, researchers were dependent on pluripotent lines from Japan and the United States, said project manager Paul Verma. This slowed research due to limited availability and experts were not able to study the meaning of the differences between IpS cells derived from the same adult. “Another reason why we wanted to produce them here,” said Verma, “is that we will be able to study IpS cells from patients with several unique diseases.”
Parkinson’s disease is one of the top candidates. It will now be possible to remove skin cells from an adult with Parkinson’s disease, reprogram it so it acts like an embryonic stem cell and then use that line to test for new cures. A similar project has also been planned for type 1 diabetes research at the same institute.