In a breakthrough that could have huge implications, British and Canadian scientists have found a way of reprogramming skin cells taken from adults, effectively winding the clock back on the cells until they were in an embryonic form.
Because the cells can be made from a patient’s own skin, they carry the same DNA and so could be used without a risk of being rejected by the immune system.
Scientists showed they could make stem cells from adult cells more than a year ago, but the cells could never be used in patients because the procedure involved injecting viruses that could cause cancer. Overcoming the problem has been a major stumbling block in efforts to make stem cells fulfil their promise of transforming the future of medicine.
Now, scientists at the universities of Edinburgh and Toronto have found a way to achieve the same feat without using viruses, making so-called induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cell therapies a realistic prospect for the first time.