Quite the Week in Stem Cell Science
Another week and more revolutionary findings about stem cells and their ability to turn into any kind of cell. Why mention here these developments in hard core science? Because they illustrate the exponential pace of progress in molecular biology.
First, researchers in Japan announced finding a simple way to transform mature cells back into a state that looks very much like a pluripotent embryonic stem stem. In short, the process is to put them briefly in a solution of a weak acid. The process is so simple, it left the researchers stunned, and so they repeated their work again and again to make sure it really was happening. Many repeats later, the data was published in Nature. The paper is: Haruko Obokata, Teruhiko Wakayama, Yoshiki Sasai, Koji Kojima, Martin P. Vacanti, Hitoshi Niwa, Masayuki Yamato, Charles A. Vacanti. Stimulus-triggered fate conversion of somatic cells into pluripotency. Nature, 2014; 505 (7485): 641 DOI: 10.1038/nature12968.
Then, late in the week, researchers at Yale published in Cell new data showing that cells find it easier to become pluripotent when their "cycle" speed (the speed at which they divide) is speeded up to a faster level. The basic summary is in ScienceDaily. The paper is: Shangqin Guo, Xiaoyuan Zi, Vincent P. Schulz, Jijun Cheng, Mei Zhong, Sebastian H.J. Koochaki, Cynthia M. Megyola, Xinghua Pan, Kartoosh Heydari, Sherman M. Weissman et al. Nonstochastic Reprogramming from a Privileged Somatic Cell State. Cell, 2014 DOI: 10.1016/j.cell.2014.01.020