Much like planning a road trip, reprogramming human stem cells relies on developing a list of sequential actions, or a “roadmap” of sorts, after which it is little more complicated than following the prescribed directions. Without an accurate roadmap for the human stem cells, however, researchers at University of California, Los Angeles had to develop their own.Researchers at UCLA, in collaboration with scientists at the Eli and Edythe Broad Center of Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Research at UCSF, have established the first "roadmap"- a method that defines the various reprogramming stages of specialized cells into those resembling embryonic stem cells.
Led by bio-researcher Kathrin Plath, the team at UCLA studied induced pluripotent stem cells, known as iPSCs. These are cells that can be generated from adult cells and then, like embryonic stem cells, can be directed to become any cell in the human body. Adult cells can also be reprogrammed in the lab to change from a specialized cell back to an iPSC (and thus becoming a cell similar to that of an embryonic stem cell). The process of reprogramming stem cells typically takes one to two weeks and is a largely inefficient process, with about a 1% success rate.
The main focus of this research has been to better understand the stages that stem cells go through during the reprogramming process, in order to streamline the process and maximize the success rate of reprogrammed cells. This is a crucial step in the study of regenerative medicine, since the reprogrammed cells have the potential to “reproduce indefinitely and provide a single source of patient-specific cells to replace those lost to injury or disease”.
Researchers in Plath’s lab have successfully developed a “roadmap” of the reprogramming process by inducing the reprogramming of specialized cells, then observing and analyzing the cell’s transformations from day to day. The data was collected and recorded during a period of up to two weeks. Plath’s team found that the changes that happen in cells during reprogramming occur sequentially, and that importantly, the stages of the sequence were the same across the different reprogramming systems and different cell types analyzed.
“This study signals a big change in thinking, because it provides simple and efficient tools for scientists to study stem cell creation in a stage-by-stage manner. Most studies to date ignore the stages of reprogramming, but we can now seek to better understand the entire process on both a macro and micro level…by understanding cell reprogramming better we have the potential to improve disease modeling and the generation of better sources of patient-specific specialized cells suitable for replacement therapy,” said Plath, who is a professor of biological chemistry. “This can ultimately benefit patients with new and better treatments for a wide range of diseases.”
The research was supported by grants from the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, the state’s stem cell agency, with additional funding provided by the UCLA Broad Stem Cell Research Center through philanthropy and other sources.
As UCLA continues to expand and engage in top-tier bioresearch, the need for lab materials and equipment grows with it. Lab equipment vendors that would like to increase lab sales by marketing directly to the eminent and well-funded researchers can consider targeting the UCLA marketplace at the Biotechnology Vendor Showcase™ Events at UCLA on 4/2/15 and 10/22/15.
Last year, the Biotechnology Vendor Showcase™ Events at the University of California, Los Angeles attracted a total of 1105 attendees, 287 of which were purchasing agents, professors and post docs, and 141 were lab managers from 39 different research buildings and 66 on-campus departments.
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