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Author Topic: Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells  (Read 679 times)

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Offline DarklingAliceTopic starter

Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells
« on: April 20, 2010, 08:57:45 AM »
Since it came up in another thread:

In 2006 a lab carried out an amazing experiment. Basically they said: "The embryonic stem cell hubub is annoying, let's work around it. What chemicals are in an embryonic stem cell? Could it be that those chemicals are actually what cause it to have pluri-potency?" The answer was yes, after which they basically took away factors one at a time to see which ones were actually important leading to the discovery that the careful introduction of 4 factors, luck, and time could revert differentiated cells to a pluri-potent state.

The findings were published by Takahashi and Yamanaka in a 2006 issue of Cell (which should be freely available here.)

Or if you want to skip the juicy data and get right to the heart of the matter:

Quote
Differentiated cells can be reprogrammed to an embryonic-like state by transfer of nuclear contents into oocytes or by fusion with embryonic stem (ES) cells. Little is known about factors that induce this reprogramming. Here, we demonstrate induction of pluripotent stem cells from mouse embryonic or adult fibroblasts by introducing four factors, Oct3/4, Sox2, c-Myc, and Klf4, under ES cell culture conditions. Unexpectedly, Nanog was dispensable. These cells, which we designated iPS (induced pluripotent stem) cells, exhibit the morphology and growth properties of ES cells and express ES cell marker genes. Subcutaneous transplantation of iPS cells into nude mice resulted in tumors containing a variety of tissues from all three germ layers. Following injection into blastocysts, iPS cells contributed to mouse embryonic development. These data demonstrate that pluripotent stem cells can be directly generated from fibroblast cultures by the addition of only a few defined factors.

Since 2006, iPS cells have been a major issue in the sciences as they have joined our small kit of tools for generating new tissue, growing organs, and may perhaps even lead to a new method of cloning a whole organism. Numerous ongoing studies are working on tweaking and perfecting methods of iPS cell generation and probing into applications. As always more information can be found through the NCBI & PubMed. Let's hope that this bypasses the debate and lets us get on with the process  of saving lives.

Offline mystictiger

Re: Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells
« Reply #1 on: April 21, 2010, 01:03:17 PM »
The problem I have with much of the hype surrounding stem cells is that everyone is very keen to talk about how they'll save lives, yet only talk about what hard practical applications stem cell therapy will produce in the vaguest and most abstract terms.

Treatment for Alzheimer's (pet subject of mine)? Personally, I'd rather not have someone injecting something into the limited space that is my cranium in the hope that something new will grow. Further, this does not cure the underlying pathology - it merely (if the predictions are to be believed) gives you more brain for AD to destroy.

I think that - like the Human Genome Project - the promise of stem cells has been systematically and repeatedly overhyped. Rather than being the great white hope of medical science, it is rather the great white hype.

Offline Trieste

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Re: Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells
« Reply #2 on: April 21, 2010, 01:09:34 PM »
Remember that a lot of scientists will look at a journalism piece on their work and go, "That's ... not what I said. It's like what I said, and might be marginally related somewhat, but that's not what I said." I've looked at a newspaper article myself and said that.

And it's generally not the scientists that the public listens to when they want to know about science, natch.

Offline DarklingAliceTopic starter

Re: Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells
« Reply #3 on: April 21, 2010, 01:22:55 PM »
Remember that a lot of scientists will look at a journalism piece on their work and go, "That's ... not what I said. It's like what I said, and might be marginally related somewhat, but that's not what I said." I've looked at a newspaper article myself and said that.

And it's generally not the scientists that the public listens to when they want to know about science, natch.

This. The more work I do in the sciences the less I like journalists. The best thing you can do when you see a science headline is to find the original publication. Don't get your research pre-chewed.

If you want to know about science talk to the researchers. They don't bite.

EDIT: Ok, fine, some of them probably do bite, but they are likely to have had all their shots. ^_^
« Last Edit: April 21, 2010, 01:24:01 PM by DarklingAlice »

Offline mystictiger

Re: Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells
« Reply #4 on: April 21, 2010, 01:27:05 PM »
At the same time, one needs to consider how politicised and financial research publication is.

A great deal of publishing happens either in the context of asking for more money, or justifying where old money went. Back before I turned to the Dark Side and became a lawyer, I lead the life of a molecular biologist. It was... unseemly how many papers were published within a month of the new MRC / University funding rounds. Your experience may vary, but I found myself being happier as a lawyer - we're openly mercenaries ;)

Offline Trieste

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Re: Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells
« Reply #5 on: April 21, 2010, 02:59:09 PM »
Sometimes, but you at least know the slant of the scientist - intimately, apparently - and you don't always know the slant of the journalist. You don't know if they've been told to do a human interest piece on the scientist, or if they're out to make science look scary, or if they're out to schtump for science but they're just really bad at it. Add onto that the fact that some scientists are positively brilliant but less than articulate and you get a mushy soup of badness and broken dreams.

Then again, I am also wary of journalists, since I've looked at words attributed to me in a newspaper - as a direct quote, no less - and blinked since it was not what I had told the person, and skewed the words enough that it changed the meaning of what I said. Granted, the end result made me look smarter in come cases (the example I can think of off the top of my head was that one woman credited me as a double-major in biology and chemistry as opposed to a single-major biochemistry student; it's really not that difficult a concept) but they also hyped up things that didn't need/deserve hype.

So.