In a study that provides scientists with a critical new understanding of stem cell development and its role in disease, UCLA researchers led by Dr. Kathrin Plath, have established a first-of-its-kind methodology that defines the stages by which specialized cells are reprogrammed into stem cells resembling those found in embryos. The study, conducted by researchers at the Eli and Edythe Broad Center of Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Research, was published online on December 18, 2014 in Cell. Induced pluripotent stem cells, known as iPSCs, are cells that can be generated from adult cells and then, like embryonic stem cells, be directed to become any cell in the human body. Adult cells can also be reprogrammed in the lab to change from a specialized cell back to an iPSC (and thus becoming a cell similar to that of an embryonic stem cell). The study centered on an examination of the process of X-inactivation. Reprogramming takes one to two weeks and is a largely inefficient process, with typically less than one percent of the starting cells successfully becoming an iPSC. The exact stages a cell goes through during the reprogramming process are not well understood. This knowledge is important, as iPSCs hold great promise in the field of regenerative medicine, as they can reproduce indefinitely and provide a single source of patient-specific cells to replace those lost to injury or disease. They can also be used to create novel disease models from which new drugs and therapies can be developed.
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