News ArchivesRead News
Scientists remove cancer genes from stem cells
Thursday July 30, 2009
Reuters - Scientists have taken another important step toward using ordinary skin cells that are made to behave like embryonic stem cells to find treatments for conditions like Parkinson's disease.
Researchers at the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research in Massachusetts removed a stumbling block in using so-called induced pluripotent stem cells, or iPS cells, by taking out potentially cancer-causing genes.
Writing in the journal Cell on Thursday, the scientists said they then turned these iPS cells into brain cells involved in Parkinson's disease.
The iPS stem cells could be made from a patient's own skin cells, reducing the chances that the body's immune system might reject the cells as it sometimes does with organ transplants.
Transplanting healthy cells made from iPS cells to replace cells damaged by disease or injury may be possible in the future. But a more immediate use for these cells may be in lab dishes testing the effects of new drugs, according to Dirk Hockemeyer, one of the Whitehead Institute researchers.
"For transplantation applications, we are further away," Hockemeyer said in a telephone interview.
Scientists have learned that just a handful of genes can reprogram a cell back to a state in which, like an embryonic stem cell, it can generate any type of cell in the body.
But these genes have the potential to cause cancer, and also may interact with unpredictable results with thousands of other genes in the cell, the researchers said.
The Whitehead Institute team used viruses to transfer three genes into the skin cells of Parkinson's patients, then removed them after they had done their job.
The result was a batch of cells that looked like embryonic stem cells from Parkinson's patients, without the extra genes.
They then used the resulting iPS cells to create dopamine-producing nerve cells. They are the brain cells that die in people with Parkinson's, causing telltale symptoms such as tremors, slow movement and balance problems.
It is the first time scientists have created human iPS cells that have kept their embryonic stem-cell-like properties after the removal of reprogramming genes.
"Other labs have reprogrammed mouse cells and removed the reprogramming genes, but it was incredibly inefficient, and they couldn't get it to work in human cells," Whitehead Institute scientist Rudolf Jaenisch said in a statement.
"We have done it much more efficiently, in human cells, and made reprogrammed, gene-free cells," Jaenisch added.
The DNA of the iPS cells ended up as nearly identical to the DNA of the original skin cells, the researchers said.
Recent NewsJun 22 - A Confused Immune System Could Be Behind Parkinson's Disease
Jun 21 - Predicting cognitive deficits in people with Parkinson’s disease
Jun 13 - Brain Cell Transplants Are Being Tested Once Again For Parkinson's
Jun 12 - Smell Test May Sniff Out Oncoming Parkinson's and Alzheimer's
Jun 8 - Smartphones Track Motor Function in Parkinson's Disease
Jun 8 - GKC Enrolls First Patient in Personal KinetiGraph Trial as Part of NPF’s Parkinson’s Outcomes Project
Jun 8 - Low-fat dairy intake may raise Parkinson's risk
Jun 6 - Patient Voices: Parkinson's Disease
Jun 1 - World-First Trials Have Been Launched to Treat Parkinson's And Blindness With Embryonic Stem Cells
May 24 - Survival Rates Differ Widely in Parkinson's, MSA, Lewy Bodies
May 22 - Discovery may offer hope to Parkinson's disease patients
May 15 - Study offers answers on life expectancy for people with Parkinson's disease, Lewy body dementia
May 5 - Parkinson's in a dish: Researchers reproduce brain oscillations
May 5 - ‘Hunger Hormone’ Could Help Treat Parkinson’s Disease
May 3 - Antibiotic doxycycline may offer hope for treatment of Parkinson's disease
May 1 - Impulse Control Disorders in Parkinson's Disease: Building Physician, Patient Awareness
Apr 28 - Does Parkinson’s disease begin in the gut?
Apr 28 - New empathy-creating digital device could be revolutionary for caregivers
Apr 24 - Treating Depression With Deep Brain Stimulation Works—Most of the Time
Apr 24 - Parkinson’s disease shows links to depression