The Big Story of 2007: Cellular Alchemy

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.

Mark Hoofnagle described the political repercussions, and Alex Palazzo has more recent updates and perspectives, including two newer papers, that advance the previous achievements.

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.

  1. Yamanaka S. Strategies and New Developments in the Generation of Patient-Specific Pluripotent Stem Cells. Cell Stem Cell (2007) 1:39-49. DOI:10.1016/j.stem.2007.05.012
  2. Okita K, Ichisaka T, Yamanaka S. Nature (2007) 448:313-317. DOI:10.1038/nature05934
  3. Wernig M, et al. Nature (2007) 448:318-324. DOI:10.1038/nature05944
  4. Maherali N, et al. Cell Stem Cell (2007) DOI:10.1016/j.stem.2007.05.014
  5. Hanna J, et al. Science (2007) [accepted] DOI:10.1126/science.1152092
  6. Nakagawa M, et al. Nature Biotechnology (2007) [accepted] DOI:10.1038/nbt1374


  1. Stephanie on February 13, 2008 at 3:23 am

    Stem cell research is now OK because as the history of stem cell research goes forward now there is no need for embryonic stem cells.

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