Experts at the Stanford University School of Medicine have developed a novel method using minicircles, rings of DNA, to induce pluripotency in stem cells from human fat, providing a starting point for research on many human diseases.
Study co-author Michael Longaker, Stanford surgery professor, said: "This technique is not only safer, it's relatively simple. It will be a relatively straightforward process for labs around the world to begin using this technique. We are moving toward clinically applicable regenerative medicine."
Cardiologist Joseph Wu, the senior author of the research, added: "Imagine doing a fat or skin biopsy from a member of a family with heart problems, reprogramming the cells to pluripotency and then making cardiac cells to study in a laboratory dish. This would be much easier and less invasive than taking cell samples from a patient's heart."
Research assistant Fangjun Jia is the lead author of the work.
Longaker continued: "This is a great example of collaboration. This discovery represents research from four different departments: pediatrics, surgery, cardiology and radiology. We were all doing our own things, and it wasn't until we focused on cross-applications of our research that we realized the potential."
"We knew minicircles worked better than plasmids for gene therapy," agreed Kay, "but it wasn't until I started talking to stem cell people like Joe and Mike that we started thinking of using minicircles for this purpose. Now it's kind of like 'why didn't we think of this sooner?'"
Longaker is the deputy director of Stanford's Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine and director of children's surgical research at Lucile Packard Children's Hospital. Wu is an assistant professor of cardiology and of radiology, and a member of Stanford's Cardiovascular Institute. A third author, Mark Kay, MD, PhD, is the Dennis Farrey Family Professor in Pediatrics and professor of genetics.
The paper was due to be published in Nature Methods. (ANI)