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07 Dec 2015

New Stem Cell Technology To Speed Up Stem Cell Production

Induced pluripotent stem cell technology enables the medical world to create life saving stem cells from patient’s own skin cells. These lab-grown stem cells are usually used in research and clinical trials to find novel treatment options for various medical conditions. However, the production of these stem cells requires ample time of over 3 months which may affect the treatment of time sensitive cases and hence avoided. Australian researchers have found a way to dramatically cut down the production time of these induced pluripotent stem cells from three months to less than 2 weeks.

In order to conduct stem cell therapies using induced pluripotent stem cells, timeline make it difficult as it involves a long process of creating the cell line, characterizing it, correcting the gene defects and differentiating it into specialized cells of interest. At Australia’s Morgridge institute for research and the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute (MCRI), research team led by Sara Howden has devised a way to reduce the time taken for reprogramming the patients’ skin cells to act like stem cells to 2 weeks and the study results got published in the journal, Stem Cell Reports.

This new technology of forming stem cells takes place in 2 steps:

  • The adult skin cells are reprogrammed to an embryonic cell-like state, so that they can be differentiated into specialized cells required for a particular treatment.
  • They undergo a special gene editing process in order to correct the mutation responsible for the disease.

Howden and team were able to successfully combine these 2 steps and derived stem cells from the skin cells of patients who are affected with retinal degeneration and severe immunodeficiency. Howden says that their study helped to develop gene-corrected cells in a timely manner and at a lower cost, compared to conventional techniques. This is most influential in cases where immediate medical treatment is required.

This fast tracked process also helps to minimize the risk of genome instability and other epigenetic changes as they are cultured in the laboratory conditions, outside the human body. Howden believes that this process can also be adapted for blood samples in future. These induced pluripotent stem cells are capable of becoming any of the 220 types of body cells, thereby having the potential to develop personalized therapies for patients affected with various genetic conditions.



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