Docs Tout Safer, Non-Embryonic Stem Cells

Virus, used in mice, repurposes adult cells with no risk of cancer
By Harry Kimball,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 26, 2008 3:34 PM CDT
Mouse cells are shown.    (AP Photo)
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(Newser) – Scientists have discovered a safer way to turn adult cells into stem cells, the Boston Globe reports. The cells, similar to those harvested from embryos, are called induced pluripotent stem, or iPS, cells; Japanese researchers introduced the method 2 years ago. But the Japanese used retroviruses, which can cause cancer; the new research uses a different virus, which is safe.

For this new development, Harvard scientists turned to a virus previously used in gene therapy on mice. IPS cells are interesting to researchers because their creation sidesteps thorny moral issues surrounding embryonic stem cells. But even a study author was cautious about the discovery’s importance. Though safe iPS cells can be made, their potency has not been evaluated vis a vis the embryonic variety.