Cells change identity in promising breakthrough - 1
This research paper published online Article is published in August in the journal Nature.
Scientists have transformed one type of cell into another in living mice, a big step toward the goal of growing replacement tissues to treat a variety of diseases. The cell identity switch turned ordinary pancreas cells into the rarer type that churns out insulin, essential for preventing diabetes. But its implications go beyond diabetes to a host of possibilities, scientists said.
It's the second advance in about a year that suggests that someday doctors might be able to use a patient's own cells to treat disease or injury without turning to stem cells taken from embryos. The work is "a major leap" in reprogramming cells from one kind to another. The newly created cells made insulin in diabetic mice, though they were not cured. But if the experiment's approach proves viable, it might lead to treatments like growing new heart cells after a heart attack or nerve cells to treat disorders like ALS, formerly Lou Gehrig's disease.
Basically, the identity switch comes about by a reprogramming process those changes the pattern of which genes are active and which are shut off. Scientists have long hoped to find a way to reprogram a patient's cells to produce new ones. Research with stem cells and similar entities called iPS cells that were announced last year, has aimed to achieve this in a two-step process.