Portland, OR –Reprogramming of human skin cells to becoming embryonic stem cells which are capable of transforming into any other bodily cell types has been successfully done by scientists at Oregon Health & Science University along with the Oregon National Primate Research Center (ONPRC).
Having damaged cells because of illness or injury replaced is believed to be possible through stem cell therapy. Parkinson, heart diseases, multiple sclerosis and spinal cord injuries are among the diseases and conditions that could be addressed and treated through stem cell therapy.
In 2007, the transformation of monkey skin cells to embryonic stem cells was successful. This has compelled the team led by Dr. Shoukhrat Mitalipov, a senior scientist at ONPRC to conduct another research which will be seen in print June 6 and the journal Cellonline May 15 published.
The somatic cell nuclear transfer or SCNT involves the need to have nucleus of one cell transplanted (containing an individual’s DNA) into an egg cell with genetic material removed. This is the technique used by Drs. Mitalipov, Paula Amato and their associates in OHSU’s Division of Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility, Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology.
Dr. Mitalipov explained that “A thorough examination of the stem cells derived through this technique demonstrated their ability to convert just like normal embryonic stem cells, into several different cell types, including nerve cells, liver cells and heart cells. Furthermore, because these reprogrammed cells can be generated with nuclear genetic material from a patient, there is no concern of transplant rejection.” And he added “While there is much work to be done in developing safe and effective stem cell treatments, we believe this is a significant step forward in developing the cells that could be used in regenerative medicine.”
And what made this research more fascinating is that the use of fertilized embryos, a topic considered to be the source of significant ethical debate, isn’t involved.
With a series of studies done for both monkey and human cells, Mitalipov team succeeded in reprogramming human skin cells. It however appears that compared to the other species’ eggs, human egg cells are more fragile as shown in previous several unsuccessful lab attempts. It is for this reason that the production of known reprogramming methods before stem cells happened.
Different alternative approaches were considered in the research of the OHSU group to have this problem solved. Such were referring to the application into human cells which was first developed in monkey cells. A successful method was then developed by the researchers through moving findings between human cells and monkey cells.
Metaphase, which is the stage in meiosis (cell’s natural division process) when before the cell divides, alignment of genetic material in the middle portion happens. This is the stage considered for the success of the process of nuclear transfer where eggs cells are needed to stay. Giving cells the chance to develop and produce stem cells as well as preventing the process from stalling is possible through having the metaphase chemically maintained. This is basically what the research team found out.
Dr. Dan Dorsa, OHSU Vice President for Research claimed, “This is a remarkable accomplishment by the Mitalipov lab that will fuel the development of stem cell therapies to combat several diseases and conditions for which there are currently no treatments or cures.” Adding “The achievement also highlights OHSU’s deep reproductive expertise across our campuses. A key component to this success was the translation of basic science findings at the OHSU primate centre paired with privately funded human cell studies.”
Although therapeutic cloning or the technique used in having stem cells cloned, producing human clones or reproductive cloning will never be possible through this. And as expected, this case is as well applicable with humans. Clones development would be prevented due to the fragility of human cells as per observation in this study.
As per Dr. Mitalipov’s words “Out research is directed toward generating stem cell for us in future treatments to combat disease,” Adding “While nuclear transfer breakthroughs often lead to a public discussion about the ethics of human cloning, this is not our focus, nor do we believe our findings might be used by others to advance the possibility of human reproductive cloning.