Heard about iPS cells, but don’t know exactly what they are and what they can do? Read on to find out more.
In this article:
- What Are IPS Cells?
- How Are IPS Stem Cells Produced?
- What Are the Advantages of IPS Cells Over ES Cells?
- Are IPS Cells Similar to ES Cells?
- What Are the Risks of IPS Cell Use?
- What Are the Challenges in IPS Cell Research?
- Do IPS Cells Have the Potential for Medical Applications?
A Closer Look at iPS Cells
What Are iPS Cells?
Induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS cells or iPSCs) are derived from blood or skin cells that have been reprocessed back to an embryonic-like state, which then allows the development of various human cell types for therapeutic uses. For example, an iPS cell can be prodded to become a beta islet cell and then used in the treatment of diabetic patients. They can also be stimulated into blood cells for leukemia therapy, or neurons to treat neurological disorders.
How Are IPS Stem Cells Produced?
IPS cells can be made in several ways depending on its type. One method is genetic reprogramming. Some labs use a handful of genes to reprogram a normal cell, like a skin cell, into an IPSC. Klf4, Myc, Sox2, and Oct4 are genes commonly introduced into a cell using viruses.
Embryonic stem cells (ES cells) are a type of pluripotent stem cell that is similar to iPS cells, but different because they are collected from an early stage embryo, called a blastocyst. Similar to iPS cells, ES cells are processed in a lab to let them develop into ES cell lines. This approach is usually for research purposes, because it helps researchers understand how stem cells differentiate and behave.
What Are the Advantages of iPS Cells Over ES Cells?
One advantage of iPS cells is that they can be created without requiring human embryos, which carry ethical issues and controversy. Another benefit is that iPS stem cells allow the creation of isogenic control cell lines through CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing. This gene editing permits the changing of DNA to treat human diseases using cells.
Are iPS Cells Similar to ES Cells?
Yes, iPSCs are similar to ES cells in many ways, such as proliferation, morphology, expression of pluripotency markers, and teratoma formation. PSCs also express genes and stem cell surface markers that distinguish ES cells, like TRA-1-81, TRA-1-60, Sox2, and Oct4.
What Are the Risks of iPS Cell Use?
One major risk of using iPSC in humans is that the viruses used for generating iPS cells are associated with developing cancer. c-Myc, one of the genes used in the reprogramming process, is another risk. Its overexpression can trigger the growth of cancer.
What Are the Challenges in iPS Cell Research?
One challenge in research about iPS cells is that the change in DNA creates a forced expression of the genes. This situation cannot be controlled completely, leading to unpredictable effects. In terms of clinical application, these cells require an efficient and safe generation of stem cells to achieve the full effectiveness of the reprogramming process.
Researchers are still in the phase of understanding these cells’ molecular mechanisms relating to reprogramming. This means there is no definite time as to when iPSC technology can be effective for widespread use.
Do iPS Cells Have the Potential for Medical Applications?
iPSCs definitely have the potential for medical applications. They can be used for regenerative medicine support, screening and developing new drugs, and understanding different types of diseases. For example, in creating new drugs, researchers can use cultured stem cells to test drugs and help them understand its therapeutic possibilities.
Immune rejection is also minimized because the stem cell sample is taken from the patients themselves. This reason alone creates a promising window for iPSC to contribute to advancements in therapeutic medicine.
Importantly, one formal clinical trial lead by Cynata Therapeutics utilizing an iPSC-derived therapeutic product is now entering Phase II clinical trials in the UK and Australia, and another clinical trial will soon begin in the U.S. under the leadership of Fate Therapeutics. Additionally, numerous physician-led studies are underway in Japan to explore the use of iPSC-derived therapeutic products for the treatment of age-related macular degeneration (blindness), Parkinson’s disease and cardiac disease. Japan is also undertaking a study that will involve the production of iPSC-derived platelets.
To know more about stem cells, watch this video by BioInformant Worldwide, LLC:
iPS cells, just like other types of stem cells, promise a brighter future for regenerative medicine. They can be modified into a cell type to match the therapeutic need of the disease being treated. It is still important to consider, however, that continued research is needed to understand the behavior and mechanisms of iPS stem cells so that they can become safe for widespread use.
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