Science and Tech


Researchers Create Stem Cells From Adult Cells

Researchers say they converted adult cells from mice into stem cells by exposing them to acid.
Posted at 4:11 PM, Jan 29, 2014

Researchers are calling it a major scientific breakthrough: They have discovered a way to create stem cells by converting adult cells back to their younger state. 

In the journal Nature, scientists from Japan and Harvard University explain that they conducted their research on mice. They used a program called stimulus-triggered acquisition of pluripotency, or STAP, which exposes the cells to acid. Through real-time imagery, they realized the STAP cells reprogram and "showed a substantial decrease in DNA methylation."

The STAP cells are capable of turning into just about any cell in the body from skin to lungs. NBC reports the researchers created a mouse embryo heart completely out of the cells.

A researcher not involved in the study told LiveScience"If the findings are replicated, 'This result has the potential to be very significant.'" But just how significant? 

ANCHOR: "Do we dare to start talking about this as some kind of game changer?"

MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: "Yes, I think that's right. ... Now we have this simple, simple process. Just dipping them in acid, we convert them back again to this embryonic stem cell very quickly, very cheaply. Yep, it is a game changer." (Via BBC)

Researchers also discovered squeezing or puncturing the cells can have a similar effect. 

Stem cell research has been a topic of controversy in the past because some of it requires taking the cells from human embryos, but this new finding seems to be a way around that. (Via News Medical

However, one researcher points out:​ "It is going to be a while before the nature of these cells are understood, and whether they might prove to be useful for developing therapies, but the really intriguing thing to discover will be the mechanism underlying how a low pH shock triggers reprogramming - and why it does not happen when we eat lemon or vinegar or drink cola?" (Via BBC)

But this isn't the only stem-cell discovery making news Wednesday. 

"Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania say they were able to convert one type of adult stem cells into the type of stem cells found on tissue that covers the body. So study authors say those cells have many potential applications, including regrowing hair." (Via WFXT)

This most recent study poses questions about whether the findings can be helpful for humans, as only cells from mice were observed.