Scientists Turn Adult Red Blood Cells Into Embryonic Stem Cells

Image: Wikimedia Commons
Image: Wikimedia Commons

Despite the ethical and political differences they incite, stem cells are still a miraculous medicine, potentially able to change into whatever a sick body needs them to be. The only way to get them, though, is from actual embryos. If we could get around that, theoretically, the problems would be gone. Johns Hopkins scientists are making progress there, creating them from a non-controversial supply of something we have in bulk: adult red blood cells.


It's not impossible for us to turn red blood cells into stem cells already: Viruses can be harnessed to set the clock back on the cells by delivering genes to them, but that can come with complications, like mutated genes or cancer. Instead, this technique (just published in PLoS One uses plasmids, DNA rings that replicate inside cells, then degrade. By jolting the cells with an electrical pulse, researchers created tiny holes holes in the cells that the plasmids could slip through. The plasmids then inserted genes that cause the red blood cells to change to induced-pluripotent stem cells, or iPS--embryonic-like cells that act as if they were part of a 6-day-old embryo. Unlike other processes, the cells were also introduced into a simulated version of the bone marrow environment they're usually in.


Early reports from the researchers say it's been successful. Usually, scientists might be able to eke out a handful of usable stem cells out of hundreds. The Johns Hopkins team has reported that their process can make up to 50 or 60 percent of them usable, without introducing viruses.


But the next step for the researchers is the important test: checking the sturdiness of the cells by seeing what they can develop into after the stem cell phase.

Comments

The report of the finding by popular science website has been altered by assuming that blood cells mean red blood cells, while the paper clearly states that they are working with myeloid progenitors.The latter still have a nucleus in comparison to adult red blood cells that lack a nucleus and so are unable(with the current research) to be transformed to iPSC.
Please correct the mistake and be more careful next time.

Alex

Maybe they have been working with chicken red cells. In birds the adult erythrocytes keep the nucleus

From the paper.Discussion thread,first sentence.

''We have developed and characterized an optimized reprogramming system that generates high quality hiPSC (human induced pluripotent stem cells) from human myeloid progenitors with unprecedented efficiency.''

1. Embryonic stem cells are an experimental artifact.
2. Red Blood cells don't have a nucleas, ergo aren't true cells, ergo can't be reverted back down the differentiation pathway
3. iPS cells are not embryonic in the slightest.

That's just 3 of the major mistakes in this article. Do your bloody research.
-brain explodes-

*nucleus. My bad, not had my coffee yet

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