Induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS cells) have been created from
a routine blood sample by UK researchers,
marking an improvement over existing experimental methods that require more invasive
tissue biopsies. If the technique is shown to be safe and effective, it could
one day be used to obtain a patient's own stem cells to treat a range of
Dr Amer Rana, a senior author on the study from the University of Cambridge, said: 'We
are excited to have developed a practical and efficient method to create stem
cells from a cell type found in blood. Tissue
biopsies are undesirable — particularly for children and the elderly — whereas
taking blood samples is routine for all patients'.
The researchers isolated a group of cells called outgrowth endothelial
progenitor cells from patient blood samples that were grown in the lab. These progenitor cells were then turned
into iPS cells.
Using blood samples has a further advantage as they can
be frozen and then used to produce stem cells at a later date. Other sources of
adult stem cells previously identified, such as skin, need to be transformed into stem cells as
soon as they are collected. 'This will have tremendous practical
value — prolonging the "use by date" of patient samples',
said Dr Rana.
The research is at an early stage, however. 'The
next stage obviously is to say, "OK if we can do all this, let's actually make
some clinical grade cells", we can then move this technology into the clinic
for the first time', explained Dr Rana.
Other stem cell researchers have welcomed the study results.
Dr Paul Colville-Nash, programme manager for regenerative medicine at the Medical
Research Council, said: 'Being able to produce iPS cells from an easy to obtain
source such as blood should further support the rapid progress being made in
this field and enhance the application of this technology to the fight against
Chris Mason, professor of regenerative medicine bioprocessing
at University College London, said this was 'beautiful work' from the lab in Cambridge. However, he drew
attention to issues that remain in research into iPS cells saying that 'iPS cells are still very new, we need far more experience to totally reprogram
a cell in a way we know to be safe'.