Is One Protein Standing in the Way of Skin Cell-to-Stem Cell Conversion?

The discovery that mature cells can be reprogrammed into a pluripotent stem cell state revolutionized science. In fact, one of the recipients of the 2012 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, Dr. Shinya Yamanaka of the University of Kyoto, Japan, was honored for his discovery that differentiated cells can be reprogrammed into induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS cells). Since this discovery, patient-derived iPS cells have become a promising new approach for modeling human diseases, including ALS, in a culture dish (click here to read a related ALS Forum story). While iPS cells hold great potential for furthering disease-based research, getting differentiated cells to reprogram into an undifferentiated state isn’t as easy as it sounds. Normally, the conversion rate is under 10% (and in most cases closer to 1%) and takes multiple weeks. Now, Dr. Jacob Hanna’s group from the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel has shown that they can increase the efficiency of iPS cell conversion to nearly 100% and reduce the conversion time to under two weeks, just by knocking out a single protein, Mbd3. The work was published in the September 18th issue of Nature. This exciting finding could revolutionize the use of iPS cells in research and even potentially as therapies. Click here to read more about the function of Mbd3 and this exciting finding.

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