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Amid the political controversy and obstructions to conducting stem cell research, scientists this year managed to turn lead into gold… Genetically manipulating fibroblasts to become ESC(embryonic stem cell)-like sort of sounds like alchemy in a way, doesn’t it? The product of these papers, inducible pluripotent stem (iPS) cells, were created by transfecting four factors into fibroblasts, Oct3/4, Sox2, c-Myc, and Klf4, and they found that the epigenetic, morphological, and proliferative characteristics resembled those of embryonic stem cells.
Shinya Yamanaka, one of the lead researchers involved, wrote a comprehensive review of this cellular alchemy for Cell Stem Cell: Strategies and New Developments in the Generation of Patient-Specific Pluripotent Stem Cells.
The importance of these discoveries cannot be overstated. By ‘reprogramming’ regular cells into stem-like cells, and moving towards a technique that doesn’t inadvertently cause cancer, the expenses, difficulties, and controversies of regenerative therapy with stem cells are greatly reduced.