UCSD Stem Cell Research Shows Problems with Induced Pluripotent Cells
Recently, stem cell researchers have been focusing their efforts on advancing the induced pluripotent stem cell transplant as an exciting new disease treatment. Pluripotent stem cell transplants take stem cells from a patient's skin and use them for treatment on another part of the patient's body. They have offered a promising method for fighting numerous diseases while avoiding the controversy that surrounds embryonic stem cell treatments. However, researchers at UC San Diego have recently found several potential autoimmune complications that could result from induced pluripotent treatments.
Yang Xu (image courtesy of UCSD), a UCSD biologist, conducted the study with the help of National Institutes of Health and California Institution for Regenerative Medicine funding. His team was able to show that stem cells taken from the skin and used for treatment can be rejected and attacked by a patient's immune system. These findings contradicted the commonly held belief in the stem cell research community that a patient's immune system would not reject stem cells taken from their own skin.
In the study, Xu's team took both embryonic and induced pluripotent stem cells form several mice and then biologically programmed the cells to grow into tumors. They then introduced the cells into a genetically identical group of mice. The mice's immune systems ignored the tumors derived from the embryonic cells while they attacked those derived from the induced pluripotent cells.
According to Xu, a possible explanation for these results can be seen in the over-expression of two genes, Zg16 and Hormad1, in the induced pluripotent cells. These genes are known to be targeted by the immune system. Xu showed a possible explanation for this over-expression in the reprogramming procedure that is used to turn normal skin cells into pluripotent stem cells.
(image of induced pluripotent stem cell courtesy of Shinya Yamanaka, Department of Stem Cell Biology, AP)
Although this UCSD stem cell research has revealed some problems with induced pluripotent treatments, it is not a major setback for the science. It has yet to be confirmed that the autoimmune problems will translate into human patients and the science of induced pluripotent stem cells is so new that the UCSD discovery is not surprising. Additionally, the research should not affect the use of induced pluripotent stem cells for testing new drugs in the lab, which is one of their most valuable uses.
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