Friday, June 19, 2009

Stem Cell Breakthrough

Rett Syndrome and induced Pluripotent Stem cells goes “Green”

Wed at 1:03pm
Stem cell researchers at The Hospital for Sick Children have now devised a method, reported in the scientific journal Nature Methods, that will facilitate the generation of induced Pluripotent Stem (iPS) cells. I have previously blogged about the promise of iPS cells (see related articles). iPS cells are cells which have been reprogrammed from a differentiated somatic cell (such as your skin cells) to a pluripotent stem cell (like an embryonic stem cell, only that you don’t need to use embryos!). The generation of iPS cells is inherently very rare which occurs at a frequency of about 0.01% meaning you can generate about one iPS cell line out of hundred thousand cells. Out of which, many lines fail to satisfy the different rigorous tests necessary to be given the prestigious name of “iPS cell”.A group led by Dr. James Ellis, and lead author Dr. Akitsu Hotta, at The Hospital for Sick Children has generated a reporter, named EOS, that will facilitate the generation of iPS cells for both mouse and human. The reporter has DNA elements (called promoters) that will drive the expression of a fluorescent protein (GFP) and an antibiotic resistance gene (puromycin) that will only turn on in pluripotent stem cells, but remain off in differentiated cells. Therefore, scientists can now generate iPS cells from different sources and the iPS cells will literally “light up with a green colour” once reprogramming has been achieved. Furthermore, by adding puromycin to your culture, it will keep the iPS cells in a pluripotent state as iPS cells will normally spontaneously differentiate.
To demonstrate the applicability of EOS, Ellis also derived iPS cells from patients who have a neurodevelopmental disorder called Rett Syndrome. Rett Syndrome is an Autism Spectrum Disorder which affects almost exclusively females at an incidence of 1 in 10,000 and is one of the leading causes of mental retardation in girls. These Rett Syndrome iPS cells were green when placed under a fluorescent microscope and Ellis demonstrated that neurons can be generated from these Rett Syndrome iPS cells, the cell type affected in Rett Syndrome.
In conclusion, the EOS reporter will facilitate the generation of iPS and will be particularly useful for new labs going into this rapidly developing field. Furthermore, Rett Syndrome iPS cells that were also generated in this study will be invaluable for future drug screens that may be beneficial to those with Rett Syndrome.
Article:Hotta, A. et al. Isolation of human iPS cells using EOS lentiviral vectors to select for pluripotency. Nature Methods 6, 370–376 (2009).
Related articles:Breakthrough of 2008 – ReprogrammingA New Era for Disease Modeling and Drug Screening

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