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Three Medical Researchers Transform Skin Cells to Stem Cells

Darrell Kotton, Gustavo Mostoslavsky, and George Murphy, Co-directors of Boston University’s Center for Regenerative Medicine (CReM) harvested their own skin cells to transform them into induced pluripotent stem cells, or iPSCs that have the capacity to differentiate into any kind of cell just like embryonic stem cells.

iPSCs were first developed by the researchers of University of Kyoto in 2006.

CReM is a research facility whose main focus is to develop new treatments for diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease, sickle cell anemia, amyloidosis, emphysema and cystic fibrosis.

Last year, the three researchers created a stem cell bank of more than 100 lung disease specific stem cell lines from the tissue samples taken from the patients of above mentioned diseases.

Using stem cell cassette (STEMCCA), developed by Mostoslavsky, researchers were able to reprogram skin cells into pluripotent stem cells.

According to Murphy, skin cells taken from diseased patients and transforming them into cells similar to the affected cells in that particular disease enables the researchers to have a first hand look at all the molecular events the cells are undergoing before ending up in the disease.

By doing so, they can study each and every step in detail, observing all the changes occurring in the cells and circumstances that finally lead to the disease condition.

Moreover, scientists can test new therapeutic drugs on human induced pluripotent stem cells in the laboratory. Also, reprogramming a person’s own skin cells to embryonic-like stem cells reduces the possibility of rejection from the body when reintroduced into it.

The researchers’ team in collaboration with Massachusetts General Hospital engineered a bioartificial lung into a living rat and the rat was able breathe for about six hours with the help of this lung.

They also developed a gene therapy in mice that protects against an inherited form of emphysema.

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