Research: Human Stem cells


The recent introduction of technologies capable of reprogramming human somatic cells into induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells offers a unique opportunity to study many aspects of neurodegenerative diseases in vitro that could ultimately lead to novel drug development and testing.

Here, we report for the first time that human dermal fibroblasts from a patient with relapsing-remitting Multiple Sclerosis (MS) were reprogrammed to pluripotency by retroviral transduction using defined factors (OCT4, SOX2, KLF4, and c-MYC).

The MSiPS cell lines resembled human embryonic stem (hES) cell-like colonies in morphology and gene expression and exhibited silencing of the retroviral transgenes after four passages. MSiPS cells formed embryoid bodies that expressed markers of all three germ layers by immunostaining and Reverse Transcriptase (RT)-PCR.

The injection of undifferentiated iPS cell colonies into immunodeficient mice (so that they do not reject the human cells) formed teratomas (an encapsulated tumour), thereby demonstrating pluripotency. The MSiPS cells were successfully differentiated into mature astrocytes, oligodendrocytes and neurons with normal karyotypes. Although MSiPS-derived neurons displayed some differences in their electrophysiological characteristics as compared to the control cell line, they exhibit properties of functional neurons, with robust resting membrane potentials, large fast tetrodotoxin-sensitive action potentials and voltage-gated sodium currents. This study provides for the first time proof of concept that disease cell lines derived from skin cells obtained from an MS patient can be generated and successfully differentiated into mature neural lineages. This represents an important step in a novel approach for the study of MS pathophysiology and potential drug discovery.

The abstract says it all and is encouraging for stem cell technology but there will be be more twists and turns as these technologies are developed towards the clinic, but a step in the right direction. Furthermore, this types of technologies can provide access to cells to study human biology that may lead to other benefits.

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