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Medicine Science

Safe Stem Cells Produced From Adult Cells 207

hackingbear writes "Wired, citing a paper published in Science magazine, reports that Harvard scientists may have found a safer way of giving a flake of skin the biologically alchemical powers of embryonic stem cells by turning adult cells into versatile, embryonic-like cells without causing permanent damage. The technique involves 'adding cell-reprogramming genes to adenoviruses, a type of virus that infects cells without affecting their DNA.' Four-month trials on mice demonstrated that the resulting stem cells are free from unpredictable cancer-inducing mutations. This is definitely a breakthrough in stem cell research." Additional coverage is available at Yahoo, and Science hosts the research paper, although you'll need a subscription to see more than the abstract.
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Safe Stem Cells Produced From Adult Cells

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  • Hmmmm (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Nerdfest ( 867930 )
    involves 'adding cell-reprogramming genes to adenoviruses

    This is obviously a variation of the word 'safe' that I wasn't previously aware of.
    • Re:Hmmmm (Score:4, Informative)

      by Sox2 ( 785958 ) on Sunday September 28, 2008 @02:35PM (#25186071)

      try not to be too scared every time the word virus is mentioned. Viruses help as well as harm. There is very good evidence that viruses (and viral originated elements retained in these hosts) have shaped the structure and content of the genomes of many creatures (humans included) in positive ways: []

      Adenovirus are in some way more benign given the lack direct integration into the host genome.

      the released paper by Konrad's group is pretty interesting, albeit more of a technical accomplishment than a new paradigm shift.

      • Re:Hmmmm (Score:4, Informative)

        by philspear ( 1142299 ) on Sunday September 28, 2008 @06:11PM (#25187665)

        try not to be too scared every time the word virus is mentioned.

        Very true, and I'd add to that many vaccines are actually live viruses. You survived those just fine.

        The important difference here is that they are safer because they don't mess up your code. The viruses which integrate their genes into your genes dump it wherever, potentially in the promoter region of a cancer-supressing gene. When the virus does that, the DNA will be maintained whenever that cell reproduces.

        If the virus, like the one used here, doesn't put the DNA into the genome, it can still work for a limited time, apperantly long enough to get the job done. It won't be putting it into any genes you need to prevent cancer. And after a few divisions, the cell will lose the artificial DNA. In other words, it will be as it was before.

        The mechanisms the other types of viruses would cause you cancer aren't true with this type.

  • by DrDitto ( 962751 ) on Sunday September 28, 2008 @12:00PM (#25184971)
    Embryonic stem cells were first isolated in humans by Dr. James Thomson of the University of Wisconsin in 1997. Last year, he also published a paper on getting adult stem cells to act like embryonic stem cells: []

    Wisconsin has and licenses most of the original embryonic stem cell lines that are approved for federal funding. Of course the popular press will cling to anything done by "Harvard".
    • Re: you wish. (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Your title is wrong. This was NOT already done by the UW.

      Also, your content is wrong. Thomson did NOT use adult stem cells -- his lab reprogrammed adult *skin* cells.
      (That fact is even in the title of your linked story!)

      Thomson used retroviral infection, as did the Yamanaka lab in Japan that did similar experiments around the same time. The Harvard lab used adenoviruses, a different vector with different outcomes.

      The a major difference between retrovirus and adenovirus? Retroviruses can get the target genes

    • Of course the popular press will cling to anything done by "Harvard".

      Yeah, duh, Harvard studies more than better ways to make cheese.

      • Man, you got him there, all the research at wisconsin is aiming to make better cheese out of human embryonic stem cells.

  • Stem cells in teeth (Score:2, Interesting)

    by sreid ( 650203 )
    just got a root canal last week.. and started reading up on teeth.. did you know that the pulp inside of teeth is filled with stem cells... what a waste of just disposing it while getting a root canal...and why wont the teeth fix itself considering it's filled with stem cells?
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      I remember reading about wisdom teeth having stem cells inside, but not why specifically wisdom teeth. It would be nice if you could take them right home and chuck them in an EZculture-1000 or whatever it is they do. Teeth won't fix themselves because they are colonized by bacteria, and there seems to be no way to kill it off completely long enough for the teeth to regenerate - supposedly they would otherwise. It's been so long since I've read about it... but there were a couple of things that could be done
    • and why wont the teeth fix itself considering it's filled with stem cells?

      Generally the reason for a root canal is that the tooth has died. So that tooth is no longer filled with live stem cells.

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