Induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells can now be generated by reprogramming somatic (or differentiated) cells without the risk of inducing cancer, said Chiou Shih-hwa (邱士華), an attending physician at the Taipei Veterans General Hospital’s Department of Medical Research and Education.
IPS cells are generated through cellular reprogramming, which de-differentiates somatic cells, or converts adult cells to a stem cell-like, or pluripotent, state. Like embryotic stem cells, iPS cells can develop into any kind of cells that make up an adult organism and thus have the potential to be used in treating various illnesses.
The reprogrammed cells, or iPS cells, are a biomedical breakthrough made in 2006.
The reprogramming is made possible by introducing four genes to the somatic cells, among which the c-Myc gene, however, is a proto-oncogene that increases the risk that reprogrammed somatic cells will turn cancerous, according to the article published in the Journal of Experimental Medicine by Chiou and nine other authors.
“The embryonic stem cells are without question with the greatest potential, but most of us don’t have access to our own, while stem cells from bone marrow or cord blood are more easily attainable, but don’t work as well,” Chiou said. “IPS cells have the advantages of both, and our contribution is making iPS cells safer for use.”