Scientists from the University of New South Wales in Australia have managed to turn adult people's bones and fat cells into stem cells that are able to regenerate any tissue, including a broken spine. The article appeared in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
According to the authors, new method makes it possible to obtain the induced multipotent stem cells, or just progenitor cells, which are able to transform into a specific tissue type.
The approach was successfully tested on mice, and the first tests with humans will begin in 2017.
To reprogram the fat or bone cells, the scientists turned off their "memory". It is known that the cell type is determined by activity of the particular set of genes in its genome, which depends on the epigenetic factors. One of such factors is methylation – attaching a methyl group to DNA that suppresses the genes activity.
It is necessary to remove the influence of epigenetic factors in the genetic apparatus, to turn off the cell's "memory". To do this, the scientists used the compound 5-azacytidine – a substance that is able to inhibit methylation and return to cell its plasticity.
Azacitidine applied with platelet growth factor causes cell division that eventually allows to obtain the induced multipotent stem cells.
When progenitor cells are placed on the affected area, they began to multiply, promoting tissue healing. The scientists said that this method has a number of advantages over other methods. For example, the usage of other types of embryonic stem cells is associated with the risk of cancer development, which is clinically unacceptable.
According to the researchers, this new therapy has a great potential for the back and neck treatment, and also treatment of spinal disc, joints and muscles’ injuries.