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Major Advance In Understanding Cell Reprogramming

kdawson posted more than 6 years ago | from the stemming-the-tide dept.

Biotech 54

Researchers at the Harvard Stem Cell Institute and Massachusetts General Hospital have taken a major step toward eventually being able to reprogram adult cells to an embryonic stem cell-like state without the use of viruses or cancer-causing genes. In a paper released online today by the journal Cell Stem Cell, Konrad Hochedlinger and colleagues report that they have both discovered how long adult cells need to be exposed to reprogramming factors before they convert to an embryonic-like state, and have "defined the sequence of events that occur during reprogramming."

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54 comments

PS3! (0, Offtopic)

Floritard (1058660) | more than 6 years ago | (#22435546)

Am I the only one who thought the article would be about programming the Cell processor on the PS3 through some version of Linux. Sadly, for me that would have been a more exciting development. Was curious why it was marked "Science" though.

Re:PS3! (1)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 6 years ago | (#22435564)

Maybe now that they have better understanding of it, well start getting some damn GAMES for the thing!

Re:PS3! (1)

Knoarmanne (1204608) | more than 6 years ago | (#22435806)

I, too, had the unfortunate experience of also expecting it to involve the CellBE. What the article_really_is about though is also quite interetsing - I've always been amazed by how close genetics/programming is related. Well, in the sense that one is able to control both mediums via a 'language' of sorts... Pretty soon we'll see people who know languages such as RNA++ and Gattaca [wikipedia.org] That last one was a stretch...but it'd make for a neat name :P

Re:PS3! (1)

somersault (912633) | more than 6 years ago | (#22435980)

I was also confused because the Cell processor isn't really 'reprogrammable'. Guess this explains it. Stupid biologists getting in the way of our video games..

Re:PS3! (1)

Ecuador (740021) | more than 6 years ago | (#22436226)

You're not alone. After having read about all the difficulty in writing software that take advantage of the multiple cores of Cell processors, I saw the title and said "it's about time they figured out how to do it!".
But it about a much cleaner architecture after all, human cells. Anyway I don't see the /. crowd plunging into human cell programming just yet (and at least until there is gcc support).

Better wait till gdb is ready too (3, Insightful)

JSBiff (87824) | more than 6 years ago | (#22436620)

I'd hate to think what would happen with Genetic programming without a Genetic Debugger. =)

Re:Better wait till gdb is ready too (1)

Ecuador (740021) | more than 6 years ago | (#22436788)

Of course, but why is it that when I think about genetic debugging I imagine deformed creatures in cocoons pleading "kill me..."?

Re:Better wait till gdb is ready too (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22438324)

Well, you could be TRYING to write bugs.

Re:PS3! (1)

sgt scrub (869860) | more than 6 years ago | (#22436734)

Add me to the list. Oh while I'm at it. Don't post to the cell hacking news group. The biology girls flame the hell out of you even though they don't have any posts.

Re:PS3! (1)

philspear (1142299) | more than 6 years ago | (#22437478)

When presented with a major advance in health and biology, with impacts that could range from curing paralysis to curing cancer, most slashdotters will be dissapointed you aren't talking about a failing videogame console.

Re:PS3! (1)

Sangui (1128165) | more than 6 years ago | (#22437644)

Something that's sold 8 million consoles in the year since it's release? About the same number the the 360 has sold? And what is honestly the best Blu-Ray dvd player on the market, since it's already powerful enough to be able to do any new versions of blu-ray with just a firmware upgrade. Go back to when the PS3/Wii first came out and check the 360's sales. They're the same as what the PS3 is at now. Go troll elsewhere.

Re:PS3! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22437896)

Damn. Hit a nerve?

Re:PS3! (1)

philspear (1142299) | more than 6 years ago | (#22439272)

... and slashdotters continue to miss the point.

Cure to human diseases? More like opportunities for console wars.

few comments from TA (2, Informative)

mapkinase (958129) | more than 6 years ago | (#22435646)

Organism: mouse. Source cells: fibroblasts [wikipedia.org] :

Mouse embryonic fibroblasts (MEFs) are often used as "feeder cells" in human embryonic stem cell research. However, many researchers are gradually phasing out MEF's in favor of culture media with precisely defined ingredients of exclusively human derivation. Further, the difficulty of exclusively using human derivation for media supplements is most often solved by the use of "defined media" where the supplements are synthetic and achieve the primary goal of eliminating the chance of contamination from derivative sources.

What is interesting is that they are using adult cells.
Article says [sciencedirect.com] , that

Fibroblasts were isolated from tail-tip biopsies of newborn (3-8 days of age) mice as well as from embryos and expanded in fibroblast medium

Re:few comments from TA (1)

repapetilto (1219852) | more than 6 years ago | (#22436524)

I'm not sure whether you read the actual article or where you got that last quote from but it specifically says they aren't using "adult" cells. Unless by adult you mean differentiated, but most cell populations in a newborn will still differ from cells taken from a mature adult in many ways, so thats a confusing way to put it.

Re:few comments from TA (1)

mapkinase (958129) | more than 6 years ago | (#22437116)

"where you got that last quote from ".

If you are not sure where I got it from, read my comment again. I have to add, that I omitted details in parentheses for brevity

Re:few comments from TA (1)

philspear (1142299) | more than 6 years ago | (#22437620)

I'm afraid I don't catch you point. I don't have time right now to read the article, but both embryonic fibroblasts and adult fibroblasts will work about the same for the feeder cells. The cells they're actually culturing though, you'd be more interested in the adult fibroblasts since those are easier to obtain in humans and would be more of a direct correlation.

In other words, I would assume they're talking about fibroblasts that they reprogrammed, not fibroblasts they used as feeder cells.

I realize that's a big assumption and I will read the paper later.

A amjor milestone for stem cell therapies... (2, Informative)

ZonkerWilliam (953437) | more than 6 years ago | (#22435654)

This is actually a very major step because up until now most of the stem cell used caused cancerous tumors in the test subject, a definite problem and stumbling block.

Re:A amjor milestone for stem cell therapies... (2, Informative)

repapetilto (1219852) | more than 6 years ago | (#22436490)

Where does it say anything about the activity of the cells after they are implanted in an organism? As far as I can tell without paying anything they just figured out which transcription factors need to be expressed and in what order and for how long in order for a cell to be in a pluripotent state, a series of signaling factors trigger that gene expression, and developed a way to tell whether the cells are pluripotent or not. Nothing about what your talking about...

Re:A major milestone for stem cell therapies... (1)

ZonkerWilliam (953437) | more than 6 years ago | (#22437672)

Well I'll be the first to say I'm not a stem cell researcher, I've tried to read up on it though. I've read there is plenty of problems with iPS cells causing tumors, and when I read the statement from the slashdot submission; major step toward eventually being able to reprogram adult cells to an embryonic stem cell-like state without the use of viruses or cancer-causing genes I made the assumption (bad on my part) the submitter was drawing the conclusion from the article. So shoot me.

Re:A amjor milestone for stem cell therapies... (1)

philspear (1142299) | more than 6 years ago | (#22437692)

From the abstract it seems they have only figured out the events to reprogramming. The abstract says nothing about figuring out how to re-differentiate these cells. The end product is the same. This is a step towards solving that, but it's not there yet. These cells will still produce teratomas if you were to inject them into SCID mice or people.

This is a big deal (2, Interesting)

PIPBoy3000 (619296) | more than 6 years ago | (#22435660)

I read the abstract (the article is for-purchase) and it looks like they have a better feel for what it takes to turn adult cells into embryonic stems cells. Furthermore, they identified cell markers that let you better isolate these cells from other cells that haven't made the transitions between the two states.

I think what you'll start seeing is much better efficiencies for upcoming cloning experiments (currently it's incredibly poor), as well as people starting to talk about theraputic stem cell treatments (since you can better guarantee the "purity" of the cells you're injecting into people).

Thank you! (4, Insightful)

kenthorvath (225950) | more than 6 years ago | (#22435734)

Thank you for being one of the few people who actually links to the original publication when citing a scientific advance. I can't tell you how aggravating it is to try to look these things up when half the time they don't even tell you the name of the researcher who made the break through.

Cell aging (2, Interesting)

bindo (82607) | more than 6 years ago | (#22435742)

I was under the impression that this is half the problem. Build replacements.

The other half is rejuvenate cells and especially their DNA. Are the two separate or do embrionic cells behave differently in the handling of telomers as I understand gametes do ?

If not this is useful to repair broken bits and pieces not to rejuvenate aging tissue.
bindo

It's right there in TFA (1)

mangu (126918) | more than 6 years ago | (#22437016)

do embrionic cells behave differently in the handling of telomers as I understand gametes do ?

The summary says:

"reactivation of endogenous Oct4, Sox2, telomerase, and the silent X chromosome mark late events in the reprogramming process."

Re:It's right there in TFA (1)

philspear (1142299) | more than 6 years ago | (#22437774)

Telomerase, for those of you who don't know, is an enzyme that seems to extend the telomere, one step in making the cell capable of indefinite proliferation. I belive there is normal telomerase activity in stem cells, definitely in germ cells, and unfortunately cancer cells.

I also have to point out that I think all the papers on iPS (induced pluripotent cells, the reprogrammed cells they're talking about) specifically measure and report telomerase activity in the cells. It's just one of the many suprising things cells do when you get them to express these factors.

Re:It's right there in TFA (1)

bindo (82607) | more than 6 years ago | (#22460472)

thanks !
that was exactly what I wanted someone to clarify. It's not that you get birth with telomerase's use set into your mind :)

for all I knew telomerase was the enzyme that cut the telomers :))

cheers
BindO

Re:Cell aging (1)

cnettel (836611) | more than 6 years ago | (#22437728)

Existing cells in situ won't be changed. Injecting these in existing tissue will, supposedly, add into the empty spots of the cellular matrix and so could add a kind of rejuvenating effect. Any attempt to activate telomerase in general in existing tissue is outright dangerous, considering that it only takes a single cell out of a billion to seed a cancer.

Cell? (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22435802)

After reading the headline, I was hoping this would be an article about coding for the Sony CELL processor. (Which nobody seems to know how to use properly)

Can it run Linux? (3, Funny)

Fex303 (557896) | more than 6 years ago | (#22436478)

So, now that we're reprogramming mouse cells, how long till someone gets Linux working on one? And would that be the greatest hardware hack of all time?

I can't wait till I'm my own websever.

Re:Can it run Linux? (1)

framauro13 (1148721) | more than 6 years ago | (#22437372)

Yeah, um, I can barely get my video card drivers to install on my laptop with Linux. I can't imagine trying to configure my eye-sight to work and see that my heart maintains a steady resting 55bpm rate.

Until some uber commmunity member writes those drivers, I'll stick with my body's OEM configuration, although I'm sure properly impelemented Linux could help me get rid of some of the 'bloat' :)

Re:Can it run Linux? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22437448)

So, now that we're reprogramming mouse cells, how long till someone gets Linux working on one? And would that be the greatest hardware hack of all time?

<Obligitory>Imagine a beowulf cluster of these!</Obligitory>

You smile now... (1)

paulproteus (112149) | more than 6 years ago | (#22437916)

...but when your cells get Slashdotted you'll think again.

Re:You smile now... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22438368)

But it's a billion cell beowolf cluster?!

aw crap, they left port 40 open. what the hell is this invasion doing...

Re:Can it run Linux? (1)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 6 years ago | (#22438852)

I can't wait till I'm my own websever.

Yeah, and I can't wait until someone gets the Microsoft web server therapy, and after a couple weeks starts walking around screaming "Hacked by Chinese!"

Re:Can it run Linux? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22441288)

Imagine a Beowulf cluster of you!

Some internal biologist pun? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22436480)

Why is it called "Cell stem cell"? Is this intended to be read as "Cells and stem cells"?

This is playing at being God (2, Funny)

Malevolent Tester (1201209) | more than 6 years ago | (#22436906)

I fully oppose this up until the day I get cancer.

Re:This is playing at being God (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22437112)

I take it you're trolling for Christians. Christians have no issue with non-embryonic stem cells research and therapies. Nor would they have problems with turning regular adult cells into non-embryonic stem cells.

As a Christian, I disagree (2, Interesting)

clonan (64380) | more than 6 years ago | (#22438532)

As a Christian, I have no problem with embryonic stem cell research either.

The bible clearly states that the unborn are chattle and while they are human life, they aren't a human person. Virtually all references to the start of life include breath/breathing etc. You actually have to strain very hard to find biblical support for embryonic protection.

I just personally disagree with the creation of embryo's for the sole purpose of destroying them. They may not be a person but they are still valuable.

Re:This is playing at being God (1)

Your.Master (1088569) | more than 6 years ago | (#22438570)

And I have a problem with restricting the use of embryonic stem-cells, necessitating all kinds of expensive workarounds. Therefore, I have a problem with that subset of Christianity and other religions or creeds or whatnots that oppose the use of embryonic stem-cells.

This advancement just reduces the problem I have with them. Plus it's interesting for its own sake.

more than a "workaround" (1)

r00t (33219) | more than 6 years ago | (#22443128)

I don't have cells from when I was an embryo.

If I had them, I couldn't pay to keep them. Storage probably involves liquid nitrogen. Given that there is a small chance I'd need the cells and a 100% change I'd be paying big bucks to keep them, it just doesn't make sense.

I sure don't want cells from somebody else.

I want my own cells. This does the job. In other words, this is the perfect answer. Embryonic stem cells just do not fit the problem and never did.

basic characterization (1)

m0llusk (789903) | more than 6 years ago | (#22438994)

This identifies major steps and provides some information about them. Fully understanding what is going on in there and being able to manipulate it could still be quite a ways off. This is an advance, but has the typical one of a thousand steps look such work usally has.

Great progress (1)

Trogre (513942) | more than 6 years ago | (#22441866)

That they can revert adult cells to a stem-cell status is a major leap forward, IMO.

So far the most reliable source of stem cells has been obtained from harvesting dead babies. Anything that will put a stop to that, and give us a potentially more abundant source is a good thing.

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