U.S. stem cell experts have produced a library of the powerful cells using ordinary skin and bone marrow cells from patients, and will share them freely with other researchers.
They used a new method to genetically re-program ordinary cells in order to revert them back into embryonic stem cells — the master cells of the body with the ability to produce any type of tissue or blood cell. The new cells are called induced pluripotent stem cells, or iPS cells, and are made using four genes that reprogram an ordinary adult cell into a primitive stage resembling the first days of a human embryo — a method pioneered by Shinya Yamanaka of Kyoto University in Japan.
The new cells come from patients with 10 incurable genetic diseases and conditions, including Parkinson’s, sclerosis, juvenile diabetes,and Down’s Syndrome. The new stem cells are not at the point yet that they can treat anyone, but this allows many researchers to experiment with these cells in lab dishes to better understand the diseases.
This new method could allow scientists to overcome the morality barrier of stem cell research, that is destroying viable eggs and embryos.