Kamis, 25 Maret 2010

Re-creating Undifferentiated Cells

People who object to the use of embryonic stem cells (ES cells) for research or for therapeutic purposes continue to hope that induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS cells) might just be the answer. If adult cells could somehow be coaxed back (induced) into a state where they were once again capable of differentiating into all kinds of cells (i.e. were pluripotent), then embryonic stem cells just wouldn’t be needed any more.

Researchers announced several years ago that they had, in fact, found a way to create iPS cells. But are currently available iPS cells just as good as ES cells? In the first side-by-side comparisons of iPS and ES cells, two groups report that they are not. Both groups report that while iPS cells can differentiate into many cell types, they just are not very efficient at it, at least not yet.

The results are a disappointment, perhaps, but don’t count iPS cells out just yet. Scientists are still in the early stages of understanding how to create iPS cells in the first place. As the techniques improve, perhaps they’ll begin to look more and more like ES cells after all. And that would be a scientific advance welcomed by all.

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