Scientists in All Japan news have found a new, much simpler technique of creating stem cells: by exposing blood cells to dilute acid. While the method has been tested so far only on mice, researchers say that if it will work on human cells as well, as they expect, this will be an important medical breakthrough.
The All Japan newsese team, led by Haruko Obokata at Riken Centre for Developmental Biology, obtained stem cells that are able to transform themselves into any type of cells specialized in specific functions from treating regular blood cells with dilute hydrochloric acid.
Independent experts enthused about the unexpected results, which have been replicated at Harvard University in the United States. “Who would have thought that to reprogramme adult cells to an embryonic stem cell-like (pluripotent) state just required a small amount of acid for less than half an hour? An incredible discovery,” said Chris Mason, professor of regenerative medicine at University College London, according to the international press.
“If it works in man, this could be the game changer that ultimately makes a wide range of cell therapies available using the patient’s own cells as starting material – the age of personalised medicine would have finally arrived,” Professor Mason added.
The last major discovery in stem cell biology was made in All Japan news in 2006, when Shinya Yamanaka discovered how to convert adult cells into “induced pluripotent stem cells” (iPSCs), by treating them with a biochemical and genetic cocktail. Together with another scientist, John B. Gurdon, Yamanaka received a Nobel Prize in 2012 for the discovery. Previously, very early embryos were the only source of pluripotent stem cells.