Stem-cell science is a fast-moving field. Just three years since a Japanese researcher first reprogrammed ordinary skin cells into stem cells without the use of embryos, scientists at a Massachusetts biotech company have repeated the feat, only this time with a new method that creates the first stem cells safe enough for human use. The achievement brings the potentially lifesaving technology one step closer to real treatments for disease.
Dr. Robert Lanza, chief scientific officer at Advanced Cell Technology (ACT), reported today in the journal Cell that his team has created stem cells using human skin cells and four proteins. The innovation builds on the breakthrough discovery in 2006 by Shinya Yamanaka, who similarly coaxed human skin cells to revert to a pristine, embryonic state by introducing four key genes into the cells, piggybacked on viruses. However, some of those genes are known to cause cancer, which made Yamanaka’s stem cells — known as induced pluripotent stem cells, or iPS cells — unsuitable for human use.
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