Salk scientists have identified a unique molecular signature in induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs), “reprogrammed” cells that show great promise in regenerative medicine thanks to their ability to generate a range of body tissues.
In this week’s Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the Salk scientists and their collaborators at University of California, San Diego, report that there is a consistent, signature difference between embryonic and induced pluripotent stem cells. The findings could help overcome hurdles to using the induced stem cells in regenerative medicine.
“We believe that iPSCs hold a great potential for the treatment of human patients,” says Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte, a professor in Salk’s Gene Expression Laboratory and the senior author on the paper. “Yet we must thoroughly understand the molecular mechanisms governing their safety profile in order to be confident of their function in the human body. With the discovery of these small, yet apparent, epigenetic differences, we believe that we are now one step closer to that goal.”
Embryonic stem cells (ESCs) are known for their “pluripotency,” the ability to differentiate into nearly any cell in the body. Because of this ability, it has long been thought that ESCs would be ideal to customize for therapeutic uses. However, when ESCs mature into specific cell types, and are then transplanted into a patient, they may elicit immune responses, potentially causing the patient to reject the cells.
In 2006, scientists discovered how to revert mature cells, which had already differentiated into particular cell types, such as skin cells or hair cells, back into a pluripotent state. These “induced pluripotent stem cells” (iPSCs), which could be developed from the patient’s own cells, would theoretically carry no risk of immune rejection.
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Scientists identify unique molecular signature in iPSCs that show promise in regenerative medicine