Hello,

We noticed you're browsing in private or incognito mode.

To continue reading this article, please exit incognito mode or log in.

Not an Insider? Subscribe now for unlimited access to online articles.

Emily Singer

A View from Emily Singer

Human Stem Cells Created without Viruses

Scientists have overcome a major barrier to human use.

  • March 2, 2009

In 2006, Shinya Yamanaka and his colleagues at Kyoto University, in Japan, reported that they could reprogram mouse skin cells to an embryonic-like state by adding four genes, since dubbed the Yamanaka factors. These cells, called induced pluripotent cells, can be transformed into different types of cells and tissues, and hold promise for studying disease and developing cell replacement therapies. However, scientists inserted the genes using viruses, making the cells unsuitable for human use. Now, for the first time, British and Canadian scientists have developed a way to reprogram stem cells without viruses.

According to an article on NatureNews,

Stem-cell researchers led by Andreas Nagy, of the Samuel Lunenfeld Research Institute at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto, Canada, and Keisuke Kaji, of the University of Edinburgh, UK, inserted genes encoding Yamanaka’s factors into a piece of DNA, or cassette, that also contained a jumping gene known as piggyBAC. The teams showed that this cassette could be inserted into the DNA of mouse and human skin cells and could reprogram them back to an embryonic-like state (K. Kaji et al. Nature doi:10.1038/nature07864; 2009, K. Woltjen et al. Nature doi:10.1038/nature07863; 2009).

The teams then used an enzyme called transposase to remove the cassette from the mouse cells. But some scientists say that until the cassette is removed from human cells, the technique is not a major advance over viral methods.

Nagy, however, is confident that he will be able to use transposase to remove the cassette from human cells. He is currently trying to use his method to reprogram cat and dog cells.

The latest Insider Conversation is live! Listen to the story behind the story.

Subscribe today
Already a Premium subscriber? Log in.
More from Rewriting Life

Reprogramming our bodies to make us healthier.

Want more award-winning journalism? Subscribe to Insider Plus.
  • Insider Plus {! insider.prices.plus !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Everything included in Insider Basic, plus the digital magazine, extensive archive, ad-free web experience, and discounts to partner offerings and MIT Technology Review events.

    See details+

    What's Included

    Unlimited 24/7 access to MIT Technology Review’s website

    The Download: our daily newsletter of what's important in technology and innovation

    Bimonthly print magazine (6 issues per year)

    Bimonthly digital/PDF edition

    Access to the magazine PDF archive—thousands of articles going back to 1899 at your fingertips

    Special interest publications

    Discount to MIT Technology Review events

    Special discounts to select partner offerings

    Ad-free web experience

/3
You've read of three free articles this month. for unlimited online access. You've read of three free articles this month. for unlimited online access. This is your last free article this month. for unlimited online access. You've read all your free articles this month. for unlimited online access. You've read of three free articles this month. for more, or for unlimited online access. for two more free articles, or for unlimited online access.