New Stem-Cell Method Shows Promise

Handout image shows a mouse embryo formed with Stimulus-Triggered Acquisition of Pluripotency (STAP) cells. (CNS photo/Haruko Obokata, RIKEN Center for Developmental Biology handout via Reuters)

A new method of creating versatile stem cells from a relatively simple manipulation of existing cells could further reduce the need for research involving human embryos. Although the process has been tested only in mice, two studies published on Jan. 29 in the journal Nature detailed research showing success with a process called stimulus-triggered acquisition of pluripotency, or S.T.A.P. Scientists from Japan’s Riken research institute and Harvard’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston were able to reprogram blood cells from newborn mice by placing them in a low-level acidic bath for 30 minutes. “If this technology proves feasible with human cells, which seems likely, it will offer yet another alternative for obtaining highly flexible stem cells without relying on the destructive use of human embryos,” said the Rev. Tadeusz Pacholczyk, director of education at the National Catholic Bioethics Center in Philadelphia.

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