A team of scientists from Harvard and Advanced Cell Technology have devised a new and evidently safer way to reprogram skin cells into induced pluripotent stem cells. They soaked skin cells in genetically engineered proteins fused with a peptide, which transported the proteins into the cells and made them act like embryonic stem cells capable of developing into a wide variety of tissues.
Over the past few years scientists have been working feverishly to develop a safe and efficient way to spur stem cells to act like ESCs. Genetic reengineering was successful in producing ESC-like cells, but raised some potentially catastrophic health risks. This new process could make it much easier for stem cell companies to do their work without using actual ESCs, which has caused a significant amount of controversy. And ACT believes it's close to making this a mainstream practice.
"After a few more flight tests--in order to assure everything is working properly--it should be ready for commercial use," ACT's Robert Lanza told Reuters. "This method eliminates the risks associated with genetic and chemical manipulation, and provides for the first time a potentially safe source of iPS cells for translation into the clinic. This is the ultimate stem cell solution--you just add some proteins to a few skin cells and voila! Patient-specific stem cells!"