November 6, 2008

Scientists ID Stem Cell Compounds

U.S. scientists say they have identified compounds for stem cell production from adult cells, moving medicine closer to the reprogramming of general cells.

Scripps Research Institute scientists said they screened known drugs and identified small molecules that could replace conventional reprogramming genes. They said the process they developed offers a new way to generate stem cells from fibroblasts, a general cell type that is abundant and easily accessible from various tissues, including skin.

"Our study shows for the first time that somatic or general cell types can be reprogrammed with only two genes and small molecules, and that these small molecules can replace one of the two most essential reprogramming genes," said Associate Professor Sheng Ding. "In this case, we replaced the SOX2 gene, which had previously always been regarded as absolutely essential for the reprogramming process."

The SOX2 gene encodes a transcription factor that plays a critical role in the regulation of embryonic stem cells.

"In conjunction with our earlier published studies, (the finding) offers definitive proof that we can make cell reprogramming technology much more practical than it has been," Ding said.

The study that included researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Biomedicine in Germany appears in the journal Cell Stem Cell.