Scientists successfully develops blood cells from skin cells

Scientists successfully develops blood cells from skin cells

11:15 AM, 22nd November 2016
Making blood from skin cells through direct reprogramming.
Making blood from skin cells through direct reprogramming.

SINGAPORE: A team of scientists led by A*STAR’s Genome Institute of Singapore (GIS) and Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology (IMCB) have artificially generated new mouse blood and immune cells from skin cells. This is an important initial step to the final aim: the engineering of new human blood cells from skin cells or other artificial sources.

One of the main challenges of regenerative medicine is to produce new blood and immune cells for patients in need. This development could lead to a strong source of new blood or immune cells becoming available to treat patients with immune disorders and other such diseases or those who require blood transfusions.

While there were previous efforts to generate new mouse blood cells from skin cells, the yielded cells could last only two weeks once injected back into mice. In contrast, the artificially skin-derived blood cells in this study can last for multiple months in mice.

The study is published in the journal Nature Communications.

So far, they have recognised a cocktail of four factors that can change mouse skin cells into different types of blood cells. By introducing the four factors that are normally active in blood cells into skin cells, they could artificially 'rewrite' skin cells to adopt features of blood cells.

“On the face of it, skin cells and blood cells couldn’t be more different from one another. We have been interested in whether it might be possible to rewrite the identity of cells, specifically to turn skin into blood,” said the study’s first author Dr Cheng Hui, who began this project as a postdoctoral fellow at GIS.

“This is not only of practical importance for regenerative medicine in terms of potentially yielding a source of new blood or immune cells, but it is also interesting from a fundamental biological perspective that two very different cells – like skin and blood – can be interconverted,” added Dr Kyle Loh, currently an investigator and instructor at Stanford Institute for stem cell biology & regenerative medicine, Stanford University School of Medicine, and a member of the project team as a former GIS intern.

“This development could be a potential game-changer for regenerative medicine. If researchers are able to extend what they did with the mice to human cells in the foreseeable future, it can translate into tangible benefits for the patients in need,” added Prof Ng Huck Hui, executive director, GIS.

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