July 2, 2010

Scientists Make Stem Cells From Frozen Blood

Stored samples of frozen blood can be used to make cells that resemble stem cells, potentially creating a new and easier source for the valued cells, researchers said on Thursday.

The researchers used cells from blood to make induced pluripotent cells (iPS cells) -- cells that closely resemble human embryonic stem cells but are made from ordinary tissue.

IPS cells have been made from skin in the past, but blood is much easier to take from people and to store, the researchers reported.

"Blood is the easiest, most accessible source of cells, because you'd rather have 20 milliliters of blood drawn than have a punch biopsy taken to get skin cells," said Judith Staerk of the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research in Massachusetts, who worked on the study.

Stem cells are the master cells of the human body, the source of renewed blood and tissue. Embryonic stem cells from days-old embryos have the ability to become all cell types in the body and can reproduce in the lab for years.

IPS cells are produced by activating three or four genes that distinguish embryonic stem cells.

Rudolf Jaenisch, also of the Whitehead Institute, who led the study, said that being able to use blood will open up a host of opportunities for researchers who want to use iPS cells to study how diseases develop.

"There are enormous resources -- blood banks with samples from patients that may hold the only viable cells from patients who may not be alive any more, or from the early stage of their diseases," Jaenisch told Reuters.

"Using this method, we can now resurrect those cells as induced pluripotent stem cells. If the patient had a neurodegenerative disease, you can use the iPS cells to study that disease," he added.

The study report is published in the journal Cell Stem Cell.


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