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Researchers Claim Major Breakthrough in Stem Cell Research

Update Date: Jan 29, 2014 10:45 AM EST
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Researchers from Japan and Harvard University in the United States have announced that they discovered a major breakthrough in stem cell research. According to the team, they have successfully converted adult cells back into stem cells without altering DNA in mouse models. The stem cells would then ideally turn into any cell that is needed in the body.

"This study demonstrates that any mature cell when placed in the right environment can go back, become a stem cell, which then has the potential to become any cell needed by that tissue," Harvard Medical School stem cell and tissue engineering biologist and lead investigator of the study, Charles Vacanti said according to USA Today. Vacanti is also associated with Brigham and Women's Hospital. "With a very significant injury, you will cause it to revert clear back to what is basically an embryonic stem cell."

For this study, the research team used the white blood cells from mouse models. The researchers placed the white blood cells under multiple stressors to the point where the cells almost died. Some of the stressors included a low-pH acidic solution for five minutes and physical pressure. Roughly five other conditions were experimented with as well. The researchers found that the cells were able to survive and recover from the stressors by returning back to a state that resembled an embryonic stem cell.

The researchers named these cells the stimulus-triggered acquisition of pluripotency (STAP) cells. Although the study was done on mouse models the researchers believe that if they can replicate this procedure in human cells, stem cell research would change forever.

"It's exciting to think about the new possibilities these findings offer us, not only in regenerative medicine, but cancer as well," commented researcher Dr. Haruko Obokata from the Riken Center for Developmental Biology in Japan.

Chris Mason, professor of regenerative medicine at the University College London, added according to BBC News, "It looks a bit too good to be true, but the number of experts who have reviewed and checked this, I'm sure that it is. If this works in people as well as it does in mice, it looks faster, cheaper and possibly safer than other cell reprogramming technologies - personalized reprogrammed cell therapies may now be viable."

The findings were published in Nature.

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