British and Japanese scientists have managed to ‘reset’ human stem cells to their earliest state, opening up a new realm of research into the start of human development and potentially life-saving regenerative medicines. The scientists say they have successfully re-booted pluripotent stem cells so they were equivalent to those of a 7 to 10-day old embryo, before it implants in the womb. By studying the reset cells, they hoped to learn more about embryo development, and how it can go wrong and cause miscarriage and developmental disorders.
“These cells may represent the real starting point for formation of tissues in the human embryo,” says Austin Smith, director of the Britain’s Cambridge Stem Cell Institute, who co-led the research published in the journal Cell. “We hope that in time they will allow us to unlock the fundamental biology of early development, which is impossible to study directly in people,” he adds.
Human pluripotent stem cells have the potential to become any of the cells and tissues in the body. Currently they are made in a lab from cells extracted from early-stage embryos or from adult cells that have been induced, or reprogrammed, into an earlier state. However, until now it has proved difficult to generate human pluripotent stem cells that are at an early pristine stage, before they have started changing, the researchers say. Instead, scientists have only derived cells that are slightly further down the developmental pathway, not a totally “blank slate”, says Smith.
By helping to regenerate tissue, stem cell science could offer new ways of treating conditions for which there are currently no cures – including heart and eye diseases, Parkinson’s and stroke, they say. Via Scientists ‘reset’ stem cells to early, pristine stage