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Skin Cells reprogrammed with Stem Cell characteristics

By imrdkl in News
Mon May 13, 2002 at 04:07:25 PM EST
Tags: Science (all tags)

Researchers from the US and Norway have discovered that skin cells can be reprogrammed, in order to take on traits which were thought previously to be exclusive to stem cells.

Their findings were published this month in Nature Biotechnology journal.

To accomplish the reprogramming, a technique was used wherein the skin cells were bathed in a solution which was derived from another cell type. Specifically, the solution was "nuclear and cytoplasmic extract derived from another somatic cell type."

After the bath, the evidence showed that the original cells demonstrated:

nuclear uptake and assembly of transcription factors, induction of activity of a chromatin remodeling complex, histone acetylation, and activation of lymphoid cell specific genes.
Additionally, the reprogrammed cells expressed:
T cell specific receptors and assemble the interleukin-2 receptor in response to T cell receptor CD3 (TCR-CD3) complex stimulation. Reprogrammed primary skin fibroblasts also express T cell-specific antigens.
In other words, according to this article,
after being bathed with extracts from early stage human immune and neuronal cells, the skin cells had shown genetic characteristics of some of those cell types.
However, the scientists also reported that "the cells did not appear to be completely "reprogrammed" to become full-fledged immune system cells or neurons".

The Norwegians, along with some other European countries, have laws in place already that prohibit experimentation with stem cells derived from embryos. In the US, this type of restriction is being strongly advocated by the Bush Administration, as well. This in spite of loud and enduring protest and assertions to the necessity of stem-cell research.

The findings, if they prove to be refineable and extendable, might provide a middle ground where the two sides could meet, in order to continue research into stem cells. Some claim that stem cell research might provide answers or possibly even treatments for such diseases as Parkinsons disease and even cancer. At the same time, since such cells could be had for a bit of skin, instead of an embryo, those opposed to the research might have less to argue about. The Norwegian scientists, however, point out that the road from research to treatment is a long one.


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Skin Cells reprogrammed with Stem Cell characteristics | 28 comments (19 topical, 9 editorial, 0 hidden)
What'd I miss? (4.50 / 4) (#9)
by jabber on Mon May 13, 2002 at 01:20:06 PM EST

On the surface, it seems that this might make the whole debate about the ethics of obtaining stem cells moot. But in fact, this is much like the article from a few months back where fish tissue was grown in a vat of bovine serum.. In that case, you still needed to bleed cows to make the serum, to grow the fish, to replace beef as a food source. In this case, you still have to harvest stem cells to make the serum in which you then bathe the skin cells, so they would take on 'some' stem cell characteristics.

It's interesting enough to see it work, but it seems to hold no near-term promise. Maybe at some point when an analogue of stem cell serum can be made artificially, and the skin cells can be convinced to take on _all_ of the characteristics of stem cells, the ethical dilemma of using aborted fetal tissue to obtain stems cells will go away.

Until then, I fail to see what this research yields, other than some unclear future potential.

[TINK5C] |"Is K5 my kapusta intellectual teddy bear?"| "Yes"

I dont think so (none / 0) (#10)
by imrdkl on Mon May 13, 2002 at 01:23:25 PM EST

if I understand correctly, the skin cells must be bathed in a solution extracted from the cells to which the transformation is desired, and not actual stem cells.

[ Parent ]
Sounds eerily "Soylent Green" n/t (none / 0) (#13)
by jabber on Mon May 13, 2002 at 01:56:54 PM EST

[TINK5C] |"Is K5 my kapusta intellectual teddy bear?"| "Yes"
[ Parent ]

Well..... (none / 0) (#14)
by FuriousXGeorge on Mon May 13, 2002 at 02:23:56 PM EST

If we can find a way to make stem cells out of skin cells then we just need to do it once and then make new stem cells out of the former skin cells (now stem cells).

I'm confused.
[ Parent ]

But... But... (none / 0) (#16)
by jabber on Mon May 13, 2002 at 02:28:26 PM EST

Making fetuses is so much more EXCITING!!!

[TINK5C] |"Is K5 my kapusta intellectual teddy bear?"| "Yes"
[ Parent ]

what I don't like about this (4.50 / 10) (#11)
by Subtillus on Mon May 13, 2002 at 01:23:37 PM EST

Is that now we have an excuse to give to fundamentalist groups that don't think we should be using embryonic stem cells.
picture this:
You are a couple, a married couple, unfortunately Johnny has a narrow urethra and so the two of you cannot conceive. boo hoo. Oh, but wait, we have assisted reproduction now a days, the two of you have some embryos made, it takes, TWO separate attmpts when it finally takes and you grow some kids in your belly. that's special. You have ^ embryos left, they're just sitting in the fridge, that's all they will ever do. they will never become another person. They will never again se the light of day, in all likelyhood, they're getting thrwon out when the bio-hazard garbage truck comes by. so what?? what if those stem cells could be put to good use? what if they were somone's liver? or a new heart? what if they were just used to further Dr. soandso's research (with the couple's permission)? is that not a more befitting end than being thrown out with the trash?? to have a chance to live on in someone else? to do good for all of human kind?

research to find alternatives to stem cell research has only fueled the fires of the fundamentalists. I am intrigued by it, but, the potential behind stem cells is just so IMMENSE that it cannot be ignored for a few skin cells that expressed a t-cell receptor.

I agree (none / 0) (#12)
by CaptainSuperBoy on Mon May 13, 2002 at 01:49:45 PM EST

I agree with you.. but the fundamentalists would object to the assisted reproduction in the first place.

jimmysquid.com - I take pictures.
[ Parent ]
Heh, you'd be surprised. (none / 0) (#18)
by Kintanon on Mon May 13, 2002 at 03:43:51 PM EST

You might be surprised to find out that a WHOLE LOT of fundies view it as a 'Miracle from God' that they can have kids in-vitro, or with hormone therapy, or some other semi-artificial method after being declared infertile. And frequently these are the same people who deride cloning as 'Playing God' and abortion as murder. Kintanon Mmmm... I love the sweet smell of hypocrisy in the morning, don't you?

[ Parent ]
Be fruitful and multiply. (none / 0) (#20)
by Jazu on Mon May 13, 2002 at 06:41:18 PM EST

I heard it's because God told some people(Adam and Eve?) to "go forth, be fruitful, and multiply", and they interpreted that as "have as many children as possible", hence the opposition to birth control. But cloning is technically multiplying, so I don't know. Maybe it's just that a lot of fundies need in-vitro for some reason.

[ Parent ]
Genesis 1:28 (NT) (none / 0) (#22)
by vectro on Mon May 13, 2002 at 11:52:17 PM EST

“The problem with that definition is just that it's bullshit.” -- localroger
[ Parent ]
re: Be fruitful and multiply (none / 0) (#23)
by Maserati on Tue May 14, 2002 at 12:19:36 AM EST

Yep. Sure. God said that to those specific people.

Well, however you take the myth. We've done that. STOP. Seven billion isn't more than we can handle, but we have a long way to go socially before we can, and actually do, make this world a garden for about 11 or 12 billion people (last projected steady state number I saw)


For the wise a hint, for the fool a stick.
[ Parent ]

It is the nature of such memes (5.00 / 1) (#25)
by cyberdruid on Tue May 14, 2002 at 09:32:47 AM EST

I think that they interpreted it exactly as it was intended. All the major religions want the followers to multiply and spread the word. That is how they become large.

[ Parent ]
Why the fundies think the way they do. (none / 0) (#28)
by LilDebbie on Wed May 15, 2002 at 09:48:20 PM EST

Hi, I'm Pro-Life, but I'm not a fundamentalist Christian. However, since I know a lot of people who are borderline fundie (they aren't political pundits though), I am well aware of the Biblical backing for giving a shit about all this.

You see, God not only doesn't want us to waste fertilized embryos, he doesn't even want us wasting sperm or egg cells (why the Catholic Church is so hung up on wanking and sex for pleasure). To quote Genesis, chapter 38, verses 8-10:

Then Judah said to Onan, "Go in to your brother's wife, and perform the duty of a brother-in-law to her, and raise up offspring for your brother." But Onan knew that the offspring would not be his; so when he went in to his brother's wife he spilled the semen on the ground, lest he should give offspring to his brother. And what he did was displeasing in the sight of the LORD, and he slew him also.

There you have it. God hates people who waste their seed. This lesson can also be applied to women throwing away eggs for in vitro fertilization, but the Israelites of old had no idea that would ever be possible.

My name is LilDebbie and I have a garden.
- hugin -

[ Parent ]
Are you sure that's doable? (none / 0) (#15)
by xriso on Mon May 13, 2002 at 02:25:08 PM EST

I don't think we will be using those embrionic stem cells to generate organs any time soon (mismatching organs being the major problem). They might be useful for research, but I can't see much else.

This is why using cells from the person who needs the organ is spiffy. You practically don't have to worry at all about the body rejecting the organ. We have the technology to put in temporary replacements for lost organs, so we can wait for the new organs to mature instead of having to have a bunch pre-made.
*** Quits: xriso:#kuro5hin (Forever)
[ Parent ]

well (none / 0) (#19)
by Subtillus on Mon May 13, 2002 at 03:52:56 PM EST

I'm pretty sure that embryonic stem cells don't express MHC clusters or any other markers until differentiation, say 97% sure, I don't remember what journal i read that from, or whether it was class notes. that is to say, the "matching" doesn't need to take place until we have a person to do it to. i'm not so sure about the specifics but I have a friend who does, I'll ask her if I see her sometime soon.

secondly, it's a work in progress and stem cells show the most potential by far. nothing is ever completed within a few days, months and usually not even years. your second argument holds for stem cells also.

[ Parent ]

The fundies are idiots, but it shouldn't matter. (5.00 / 1) (#24)
by goatse on Tue May 14, 2002 at 05:44:32 AM EST

Japan/Europe will do anything we don't do.  This is biology we are talking about, not partical physics.  Its the hot thing these days, the computer/internet revolution being done and all that.  :)

Seriously, it is not impossible that the fundies have gone too far this time.  There is some evidence to suggest that their anti-science stunts are decreasing their levels of influences at the congressional level.  Congress men are old and understand the importence of medicine.

I think we have a major shake up comming in the Republican party one of these days.  Highly respected moderates like McCain should just not be loosing to the likes of Bush v1.1.  Clinton moved the Democrats so far right that there is simply no reason to vote Republican anymore unless your a religious nut (or just don't like Gore specifically).  I think the republicans will need to either

a) move further right into third party oblivian Most of the worlds demoracies have a single lead party which looks very much like Clintonian democrats and lots of third parties.  This state is not stable under the U.S. system, but the U.S. can pass into it temporarily.

b) push back by decreasing their depedance on (1) oil money and (2) religious phychopaths.  (this is infinitly more likely)

Alternativly, the democrats might just move back to the left (fear of the greens).  Gore is clearly the person to move the democrats left if its going to happen.  I don't think its going to happen though.  Clinton was responding to several pretty deep trends in American (world) society, including:

1) The influence of Ayn Rand and Margret Thatcher on economic philosophy: free trade.

2) The belief that the only way to protect yourself from foreign multinationals is to have your own bigger multinationals (corperatism).  [We feared the Japanese, The Europeans now fear us, We will soon fear the Europeans]

These influences are not going away and the people who respond to the influences are willing to shift party.  The democrats can just sit here smack in the middle losing presidential elelction (because the greens take some core liberal vote) until one they win the presidency.. and keep it for 30 years.

Actually, you can say this has already happened.  Clinton took and kept the presidency by stealing the republicans thunder (whenever their position was not just down right idiotic, ala fundies influence).  Our little ex-drunk redneck fratboy president was just the result of deperation in the ranks of the Oil companies.  It will not happen again.  If the democrats find a second Clinton (not Gore) expect 20 more years of democratic rule comming down the pipe. (Shrub might get a second term due to terroirsm stuff I suppose)

[ Parent ]

That's nice... (2.25 / 4) (#21)
by Stereo on Mon May 13, 2002 at 08:39:26 PM EST

but can they be reprogrammed to run Linux?

Can you imagine a beowulf cluster of these?

(sorry, I couldn't resist)


God will forgive me. That's his job after all. -- Konrad Adenauer

mystic (none / 0) (#26)
by krek on Tue May 14, 2002 at 11:12:23 AM EST

Is it possible that the discovery of a system by which most, if not all, of our illnesses and diseases can be cured, a system that has been discovered to have been residing in our own bodies, might not lend credence to much of the medical 'quackery' of the past and present.

Massage therapy, acupunture, the placebo effect, spontanious and spiritual healing, psychic surgery, aromatherapy and homeopathy; all healing techniques that are, at best, looked upon with suspicion by science. Now it has been proven, that within our own bodies, is the mechanism by which many, if not all, of our health problems can be cured, and it has been there since the conception of the human race. Is it possible that some previous peoples had tapped into this unknown healing power, unwittingly? It does seem a bit unlikely, but not impossible.

I have always felt that the potential human mind was great, especially in the realm of self healing, I think it more likely that we have always had the undeveloped ability to effect bodily changes through power of will, and it was through 'quackery' that this latent ability was triggered. If the patient believes in the proceedure, then it is more likely to work, much like the placebo effect.

The use of these new cells (none / 0) (#27)
by Master Of Ninja on Tue May 14, 2002 at 11:20:04 AM EST

So what is the possible use for these new cells then? Do they lose the characteristics of the skin cells? I'm assuming they haven't got this far yet in their research.

Couple of other points I want to ask the PhD biologists here: i take it the T-cells they are talking about are T-lymphocytes. Why are these becoming neuronal cells then? Also what characteristics are they talking about here (with respect to stem cells)?

As far as I can see the external environment of a cell forces it to adapt its function. What I expect is that the stem cell can adapt to all the different types of cell in a body, whereas in a fully differentiated cell which is forced to adapt, there will be some fixed structure which will remain no matter what. The problem is that the link is a bit vague and really needs some understanding of biology which I don't have.

Skin Cells reprogrammed with Stem Cell characteristics | 28 comments (19 topical, 9 editorial, 0 hidden)
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