(Photo : Reuters)
Researchers in China have announced the discovery of an "easy and safe way" to create stem cells that can be used in cloning to generate tissues and organs.
In a study published in the journal Science, Chinese scientists explained how a mixture of small molecule compounds were used to reprogram cells from living bodies into a pluripotent state, where individual calls can be developed into different types of cells through manipulation.
The cells involved in the study were left with the ability to assume the characteristic of any other type of cell in the body.
Previously, scientists used genetic manipulation to transition cells into a pluripotent state, which proved extremely complicated and, as a result, limited potential uses.
The new method revealed "a whole new route" to pluripotent stem cells, said leader of the research team, Prof. Deng Hongkui of Peking University.
"Small molecules have advantages because they can be cell permeable, non-immunogenic, more cost-effective, and can be more easily synthesized, preserved, and standardized," the researchers wrote in the paper.
To characterize their differentiation potential, scientists injected the chemically induced pluripotent stem cells (CiPSCs) into immunodeficient mice, after which the newly-introduced cells began to differentiate into a variety of tissue types.
Unlike mice included in the testing of previous methods, the new mice generated from CiPSCs were "100 percent viable and apparently healthy for up to 6 months," the Chinese team wrote.
Using the CiPSCs technology, the researchers successfully created several healthy laboratory mice.
The researchers said they believe their newfound method of stem cell creation will eventually open a number of possibilities for curing or treating diseases with cloned or altered tissues.
"To date, the complete chemical reprogramming approach remains to be further improved to reprogram human somatic cells and ultimately meet the needs of regenerative medicine," they wrote.
The researchers also asserted their findings would "open up the possibility of generating functionally desirable cell types in regenerative medicine by cell fate reprogramming using specific chemicals or drugs, instead of genetic manipulation and difficult-to-manufacture biologics."