Stem cells are cells in the body which can be programmed to differentiate into any cell type. They would be useful for example in creating new tissue or organs in cases where a person’s original organ had been damaged beyond repair.
Stem cells are found in abundance in embryos but are difficult to find in adults tissue. As such, much work has focused on the ability to convert more developed cells back into stem cells. In the past this feat has been difficult and age-limited. Furthermore, elderly people’s cells could not be converted
In a new report scientist have achieved a remarkable breakthrough. They were able to reprogram adult cells from elderly people including one centenarian into stem cells.
This is important as persons of this age are most likely to need new tissue to be generated. Using a person’s own cells to make tissue avoids any rejection by the immune system.
The research team created a novel cocktail of signalling factors which turned the elderly subjects cells back into stem cells. The cells were completely rejuvenated and were indistinguishable from embryonic stem cells. They were also capable of differentiating into any type of tissue.
“The age markers in the cell has been erased,” said lead author Jean-Marc Lemaitre. “The iPSC stemcells we got can produce functional cells of all types with a capacity to proliferate and enhance longevity.”
His technique, he added, “may constitute an optimal strategy for developing cell-based therapies for aged patients.”