Magazine article Science News

New Gene Delivery Method Takes Major Step toward Safer Stem Cells: Reprogramming Works without DNA-Altering Viruses in Mice

Magazine article Science News

New Gene Delivery Method Takes Major Step toward Safer Stem Cells: Reprogramming Works without DNA-Altering Viruses in Mice

Article excerpt

Get rid of DNA-altering viruses--check.

In a step toward medical treatments based on embryonic-like stem cells, researchers have found a safer way to revert adult mouse cells to an embryonic state. The new technique, reported online September 25 in Science, avoids using viruses that alter the cells' DNA, a major goal for stem cell research because these DNA mutations can lead to cancer.

Such reprogrammed cells could side-step the controversy surrounding therapies based on embryonic stem cells, many scientists believe, because the embryonic-like cells can be made from a person's skin or blood ceils without creating or destroying an embryo. Coaxing reprogrammed cells into becoming, say, fresh heart or pancreas cells for transplantation back into the patient could offer new, personalized ways to treat ailments such as heart disease and diabetes.

Before, reprogramming adult cells in lab dishes required infecting the cells with viruses that carry four reprogramming genes. Although scientists cripple the viruses so they can't replicate, the viruses still insert those genes directly into the cells' DNA at random locations. These willy-nilly DNA changes can disrupt the cells' own genes, occasionally in ways that cause the cells to grow out of control and form a tumor. And any process that alters a cell's DNA complicates government approval for medical use.

The new technique overcomes these problems by using a different kind of delivery virus that does not alter the cells' genetic code, researchers report. …

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