New mouse model can advance research on iPS cells to next step

Published on February 21, 2013 at 7:22 AM · No Comments

VIB scientists associated to the UGent have developed a mouse model that can advance the research on iPS cells to the next step.

Cell therapy is a promising alternative to tissue and organ transplantation for diseases that are caused by death or poor functioning of cells. Considering the ethical discussions surrounding human embryonic stem cells, a lot is expected of the so-called 'induced pluripotent stem cells' (iPS cells). However, before this technique can be applied effectively, a lot of research is required into the safety and efficacy of such iPS cells. VIB scientists associated to the UGent have developed a mouse model that can advance this research to the next step.

Lieven Haenebalcke (VIB/UGent): "iPS cells have enormous therapeutic potential, but require more thorough testing before they can be used for such purposes. Using our new mouse model, we can study which mechanisms determine the identity of a cell. This knowledge is essential before we can use cell therapy for regenerative medicine."

Jody Haigh (VIB/UGent): "If we want to give cell therapy a future, then we must continue this type of research and invest in the further development of such technologies. This will result in an improved insight into cellular identity and - in the long term - safer options of applying iPS cells or cells derived from iPS cells in clinical studies."

Cell therapy - replacing cells to provide a cure

Cell therapy is the replacement of lost or poorly functioning cells in patients. For example, such cell therapies could be used to repair the heart muscle after a heart attack, joints affected by arthritis, the pancreas in diabetes or the spine in certain forms of paralysis. This requires cells that are able to multiply in the laboratory and that can be converted to healthy cells of the desired cell type. Human embryonic stem cells meet these criteria, but they are ethically controversial.

iPS cells - a promising alternative to embryonic stem cells

Shinya Yamanaka recently developed a fairly simple method to reprogram differentiated cells - such as skin cells - back to stem cells, so-called "induced pluripotent stem cells" (iPS cells). This earned him the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 2012 (shared with John Gurdon). These iPS cells can be generated using only 4 "reprogramming factors".

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