Scientists at Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) and the Oregon National Primate Research Center have, for the first time, produced human pluripotent embryonic stem cells from somatic cells via nuclear transfer. The researchers used a variation of the somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT) technique to reprogram human skin cells into become embryonic stem cells. The technique involves transplanting the nucleus of one cell into an egg cell that has had its genetic material removed. The injected egg then divides to form a blastocyst, from which embryonic stem cells can be derived that are genetically identical to the original donor (read more). Past attempts with the technique had failed due to early embryonic arrest of SCNT embryos, but once researchers had identified premature exit from meiosis as being a key factor in the technique's failure, chemically maintaining the egg cell in metaphase throughout the nuclear transfer process was shown to be a key to success. The research was led by Shoukhrat Mitalipov, Ph.D., and was published in Cell (online) on 15 May 2013.
"A thorough examination of the stem cells derived through this technique demonstrated their ability to convert just like normal embryonic stem cells, into several different cell types, including nerve cells, liver cells and heart cells. Furthermore, because these reprogrammed cells can be generated with nuclear genetic material from a patient, there is no concern of transplant rejection," said Dr. Mitalipov. "While there is much work to be done in developing safe and effective stem cell treatments, we believe this is a significant step forward in developing the cells that could be used in regenerative medicine."
However, do we need SCNT cells in the era of iPS cells? Miodrag Stojkovic, a researcher in iPS cells for regenerative medicine, thinks not. "Honestly, the most surprising thing [about this paper] is that somebody is still doing human [SCNT] in the era of iPS cells," he said (Nature). Some research has shown that iPS cells might not be completely reprogrammed, so the comparative studies between iPS vs SCNT might be interesting to follow.
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